Payson High School senior Zak Miller and coach Josh Anderson have joined the ranks of a long list of former Longhorn players and coaches who were selected to participate in the prestigious Arizona Coaches Association All-Star North vs. South game.
Among the former Horn players to have been a part of the postseason classic are Mark Velasco, Ty Chilson, Ty Goodman, Curt Rambo, Mark Hochstetler, Carl Whittle, Mark Hanna and Matt Rambo.
Last season, Longhorn running back Luke Apfel was selected an all-star and went on to become the game's Most Valuable Player.
Among the past Horn coaches who have been chosen for the celestial showdown are Terry Nodlinski, Jim Beall, Max Foster, Dan Dunn, Mike Wheelis and now, Anderson.
The players and coaches are chosen at the conclusion of each season in a voting of ACA members. During the 2006 season, Anderson -- in his first year at the helm of the program -- led the Longhorns to a 4-5 record overall and a 2-3 East slate. Following the tumultuous year in which the coach booted six players from the team for violating rules, he said, "We won more battles throughout the season than we did games.
"The kids that stayed out for football the entire year learned a lot about the meanings of friendship, sacrifice, commitment, loyalty and pride."
Although the team did not post a winning record or qualify for the state playoffs, Anderson was able to lay a solid foundation of sophomore players he anticipates will someday form another great Longhorn group in the tradition of the 1981 and 1998 state championship teams.
"Good things are going to continue to happen for the Payson Longhorn football team," he said. "I'm positive that will carry over into the win-loss columns as soon as next season."
Miller's selection to the all-star team culminates a season in which he was named all-region and all-state first team and the Horns' most valuable player. He was also the recipient of the PHS "Mr. Defense" award. Anderson has lauded him as an all-around, highly coachable player who contributed to the Horn cause on both sides of the ball.
The date and location of the annual all-star game will be decided in the next few weeks. Last year, it was played in mid-June at Surprise Stadium, which is a professional baseball spring training site. Anderson said members of the ACA have not yet decided whether to continue the game there or move it. When played, the game will pit the finest players from the 1A-3A conferences against one another in a geographical north vs. south format.