Football Players Receive Postseason Accolades

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The Longhorn football program stood up and defied the long-held notion that players on teams that don't make the state playoffs are shunned during postseason recognition.

The Horns went 4-6 overall and didn't advance to the state tournament, but in a voting of East head coaches, seven team members were selected either first team, second team or honorable mention.

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Longhorn quarterback Ridge Halenar (22) was named an All-East region first team selection.

Ridge Halenar, Zack Miller and Miles Huff were named first team. Zach Rodgers and B.J. Hill were selected second team. Honorable mention laurels were doled out to Chris Eavenson and David Carlen.

Halenar, a sophomore, was the Longhorns' starting quarterback all season long.

Coach Josh Anderson is lavish in his praise of the teen saying, "Ridge is a big time difference-maker whenever he is on the field."

He also characterized the signal caller as "an excellent leader for our team and he proved it each and every week during practice and games."

When Anderson arrived at PHS, he ditched the sprint out option offense installed by former coach, Jerry Rhoades, in favor of the Wing T.

Halenar, Anderson said, caught on quick.

"He picked up on not just the offense, but the scheme of it, faster than anyone else on the team," Anderson said.

Halenar was also a team captain, along with Miller.

Anderson lauded Miller as an all-around player who turned in a great effort both offensively and defensively.

"At one time he was leading the team in receptions, receiving yards and TDs," Anderson said. "He's a solid, coachable kid who we are going to miss."

Huff, a senior, was a two-year starter at wide receiver and defensive back.

"He didn't see a lot of passes come his way until late in the season, which timed perfect for region play," Anderson said. "Whenever Miles touched the ball, he made huge plays that affected the game."

Defensively, Huff did not allow a receiving touchdown this season.

Rodgers' selection to the all-region team comes as a mild surprise, mostly because he played in only three games due to a shoulder injury.

"He put some much needed pressure on the QB when opposing teams tried to pass," Anderson said.

Despite Rodgers' limited playing time, he led the team in sacks and pressure on the quarterback.

If there was a hard luck player on the team, it might have been junior B.J. Hill, who was the Horns starting quarterback last year.

Early in the season, Hill went down with what was originally diagnosed as a broken leg.

After the diagnosis was changed to a severe high ankle sprain, Hill returned to the lineup but only in time to play in three region games.

"B.J. is a tough kid because of all the banging around he did as a running back with his body size," Anderson said. "He is naturally tough with a big heart for football."

Like Hill, Eavenson suffered an injury that some thought would sideline him.

"He had to play through half the year with a broken hand, which makes it even tougher to tackle for some, but not for Chris," Anderson said.

Carlen, a newcomer to the program, is a sophomore with a bright future.

"David picked up on the offensive and defensive schemes very fast and quickly became a solid linebacker," Anderson said.

The selection of the seven PHS players to the all-region team and the presence of a talented sophomore class have Anderson glowing about the upcoming season.

"I think we are all excited about next year," he said. "We have a lot to prove and most of these kids are working in the weight room."

The East

Around the region, Justin Crick of Round Valley was named the East's Most Valuable Offensive Player. Derrick Brewer of Show Low was chosen the Most Valuable Defensive Player.

Round Valley's Russ Semore, who led the Elks to an undefeated regular season and the East championship, was named Coach of the Year.

If there was a twist in coach's voting it involved a former Payson player who transferred during midseason to Blue Ridge High School.

Last year, the ex-Longhorn --then a freshman -- was chosen an all-region first team linebacker and was widely considered among the most promising defensive players in the state. In this year's voting, coaches did not select him first team, second team or honorable mention.

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