Members of the 2006 Longhorn football team will gather Nov. 29 to celebrate the culmination of a trying season that featured more than its fair share of bizarre twists and turns.
"We won more battles throughout the season than we did games," coach Josh Anderson told the audience. "The kids that stayed out for football the entire year learned a lot about the meanings of friendship, sacrifice, commitment, loyalty and pride."
During the tumultuous season, Anderson was forced to boot six players off the team for violating team rules.
One of the boys later transferred to Lakeside Blue Ridge High School where he played the remainder of the season.
In a drama that seemed only fit for soap opera television, the ex-PHS player who transferred to BRHS later returned to Payson to play against those who had been his teammates since youth football.
Anderson points to the entire situation as unsettling, but expressed his belief that those PHS players who survived, will be better men for it.
"These kids learned more about life in one short football season than many do throughout their entire high school experience," he said.
Anderson also expressed his pride in the players and team accomplishment.
"For those who stuck it out the entire season, even when things got tough, I'm more proud of them than I have ever been of any student athlete or any team accomplishments," he said.
The coach also predicts a bright future.
"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."
The highlight of the season might have occurred in the season finale contested Oct. 27 on the PHS field.
Trailing the fourth ranked Show Low Cougars 21-6 in the fourth quarter, the Horns rallied late for 15 points to close the cat's lead to 24-21.
The clash climaxed during a field goal attempt with 1:50 remaining, which, if successful, would have tied the score and forced overtime. But, Nate Doyle's 50-yard attempt was off target and the Horns ended the season with a valiant effort in a three-point loss.
The Longhorns wrapped up the campaign with a 4-6 record overall, 2-4 in the East.
By finishing fifth in the season ending standings, the Horns were denied a berth into the state tournament.