More than 50 gridiron hopefuls turned out Monday morning for the kickoff of Longhorn football camp being directed by first year Payson High head coach Josh Anderson.
During the course of the past week, the players have bedded down in the old PHS gymnasium, eaten their meals in the school cafeteria and practiced on Longhorn baseball and football fields.
During evening hours, sessions move to the Rumsey Park artificial surface fields where 7-on-7 passing league competition is held.
Participating in the camp, along with Payson, is Scottsdale Horizon High School. Horizon has been coming to Payson for the preseason camp for the past three years.
The purpose of the camp becomes very clear after watching any of the sessions. The aspiring players are being prepared for the upcoming season and a run at region and state honors.
Longhorn coaches put the campers through their paces learning the ins and outs of the gridiron system Anderson brought with him from his former coaching job in Chino Valley.
Offensively, the athletes are being fine tuned in running the Wing-T and its traps, sweeps, bootlegs and misdirection plays.
At Tuesday's morning session, emphasis was placed on the five-step drop passing game.
In defensive sessions, coordinator Bob Hoyt and coach Kenny Hayes teach a basic 3-4 set that is similar to the traditional 5-2 defenses used by high school and colleges around America since the 1950s.
Anderson said, "From that, we will make a lot of defensive adjustments."
The defensive backfield coverages will include man-to-man and 2 and 3 zones.
In addition to teaching the nuances and techniques of the offense and defense, coaches are emphasizing conditioning, discipline and teamwork.
Hayes, who was an assistant last year with former head coach Jerry Rhoades, believes the camp is going well.
"The kids are working hard, doing what we ask," he said.
When the Horns take to the field in earnest next season, they will do so as the defending 3A East region co-champs.
But from that team, PHS lost two of the state's finest players in running back Luke Apfel and linebacker Cash Armstrong. Both graduated with the class of 2006.
Apfel, the Horns all-time rushing leader, went on to win the Most Valuable Player award in the Arizona Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
Among the new coach's challenges will be to find replacements for the two in what could be a sophomore-laden roster.
Camp sessions wrap up today, Friday.
-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.