Luke Apfel is enjoying one of the finest all-star experiences ever taken in by a Payson High School football player.
As a member of the North team in the Arizona Football Coaches Association 1A-3A All-Star game, Apfel has spent the practice week living in an upscale Goodyear hotel, enjoying catered meals and practicing on a well-groomed field in a state of the art stadium that is actually the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.
His all-star week has been a far cry from past years when honorees were housed in spartan dormitories on the campus of Eastern Arizona College, ate in the school cafeteria and alternated practice sessions with opponents on a well-used EAC football field.
There is, however, one aspect of the all-star experience that hasn't changed -- the grueling two-a-days in searing desert heat.
"We have one practice in the early morning and another later in the evening," Apfel said.
The sessions were used by North All-Star coach Adam Larsen, of Winslow, to prepare his team for the annual star clash that will kick off at 7 p.m. today, Friday, in Surprise stadium.
The 4A-5A North vs. South game is scheduled for 7 p.m. tomorrow, June 17, also in Surprise stadium.
More than 120 of the state's finest football players, who graduated with the class of 2006, will participate in the gridiron classics.
The players were chosen for the prestigious game in a voting of high school coaches held at the conclusion of last season.
Apfel said from Surprise that he has enjoyed the camaraderie of the star games and getting to know the athletes who he played against for four years in high school.
"We've got guys from Winslow, Blue Ridge and Round Valley," he said. "We talk about last season -- it's kind of neat."
Apfel expects to start at running in the all-star game.
"We have a double wing with a single back (offense)," he said. "I'll run dives and we have some outside plays too."
Apfel enters the all-star game as the 2005 East Region Player of the Year, having rushed last season for a school record 2,068 yards.
Next year, he will join the Mesa College Thunderbird football team.
For Payson, former coach Jerry Rhoades and linebacker/fullback Cash Armstrong were also to have participated in the AZCA All-Star game.
Rhoades, however, had to withdraw due to summer commitments he now has to his new coaching job at Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
Armstrong, who suffered two broken wrists last season, also withdrew from participation.