The Rim Country sports scene heats up this weekend with the playing of the Pioneer Title Agency Challenge.
Seven teams from around the state have entered the boy's soccer tournament that tipped off at 9 a.m. today with Payson hosting Valley Lutheran on Field 2 at Payson Elementary School.
Games will also be played on Field 1 -- the south Rumsey Park all-weather facility.
Games will tip off every one-and-a-half hours today and tomorrow (Saturday).
Today's final games begin at 4:30 p.m.
Action resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. and continues until 4 p.m.
In addition to Payson's tournament opening fray this morning, the Longhorns are scheduled to play today at noon (vs. St Johns), 1:30 p.m. (vs. Round Valley) and 4:30 p.m. (vs. Grand Canyon). All those contests will be on Field 2 at PES.
Payson plays tomorrow at 1 p.m. (vs. St. Paul) and 4 p.m. (vs. Sedona). The first game is on Field 2 and the afternoon encounter on Field 1.
At 5:30 p.m. this afternoon, the high school players will gather at Rumsey Park for a dinner, hosted by Cucina Paradiso.
At the conclusion of the tournament, trophies for first through third places will be awarded.
Horn coach Austin White said the tournament would offer the players the opportunity for good competition, a chance to show great sportsmanship and a chance to enjoy the great sport of soccer.
The Horns enter the tournament with a 4-6-1 overall record and a 2-4-1 East region slate.
Payson's tie on the season occurred Sept. 8 at Rumsey Park against Round Valley.
The two teams battled neck and neck through regulation play and overtimes to a 1-1 dead knot.
Five days later in Show Low, the Horns dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision to the home standing Cougars.
Payson righted its listing ship with a 1-0 win over St. Johns Sept. 16 at Rumsey Park before being humbled 8-0 by Snowflake. That East clash was played on the Lobos home field.
The Pioneer Title Agency Challenge won't be Payson's first tournament of the season.
The team traveled Sept. 1 and 2 to Eager where the Horns compiled a 2-2 record in the Cool Mountain Invitational.
Payson opened with a 1-0 win over archrival Snowflake but then lost 3-0 to Chino Valley and 2-1 to Precision.
Payson wrapped up play with a 6-1 win over St. Johns.
In the four games, Aaron Loeffler scored two goals, as did Luis Chavez. Nic Creighton and Eric Lammers scored one goal each.
Following the team's return to Payson, White cited junior goalie Anthony Pearce for his exceptional tournament play.
"He is by far more than we ever expected," he said. "He not only comes with great skills but with a really great team-centered attitude."
For the tournament, Pearce was named a team captain along with junior Chad Lammers and senior A.J. Hilgendorf.
"A.J. is what keeps our offense strong," White said. "He is an unselfish player -- most goals we score are (the result of) assists from him."
Lammers, White said, "keeps our center strong with assistance from Shane Tuer."
The coach also cited the defensive play of newcomers Tanner Schaal, Ammon Carter and David Randall as a key to the Horns success.