The Longhorn soccer team has a new head coach in Chad Gower, but fans shouldn't expect many changes from last year when Austin White headed the program.
"We have 11 lettermen back so our offense and defense will be the same; the kids are used to the system, so we'll use the same setup," Gower said.
Gower took over the coaching reins from White last spring after the former coach resigned his teaching and coaching position to become an animal trainer at SeaWorld in San Diego.
Last year, Gower was the junior varsity coach under White.
In departing, White didn't leave the cupboard bare for his successor.
"We had 33 kids show up for the first day -- that's awesome," Gower said.
With that number, the Longhorns will be able to field a junior varsity team to go along with the varsity contingent.
In past years, the program has not always attracted sufficient numbers of athletes to fill both a varsity and jayvee squads.
Jill Boston, a Rim Country Middle School teacher who will also coach track and field this school year, will coach the jayvees.
Among the varsity contingent, what Gower anticipates will provide the leadership and heady play all prep teams need to be successful are Steven Hilgendorf, Chad Lammers, David Hernandez and Anthony Pearce.
"They will be our leaders," the coach said.
Lammers, Pearce and Hernandez were named outstanding players last year in the team's final game -- a 2-1 state tournament loss to Sedona.
Lammers was also a team captain and Pearce was named second-team all-region.
Hernandez received all-region honorable-mention accolades.
Although the Horns were eliminated from the postseason by the loss to Sedona, the game marked a moral victory of sorts. Earlier in the year, Payson was humbled 6-0 by Sedona.
That game, however, might have gone down as a "W" in the Longhorn column, had it not been for two bad breaks.
Midway through the game, Hernandez went down with a groin injury and did not return.
The Horns' misfortunes continued when Sedona scored the winning goal -- a highly controversial tally -- with about 15 minutes remaining.
Payson argued it was not a goal and that Pearce had saved the ball as it hit the post.
It took almost a minute after play continued for the lineman to finally rule it was indeed a goal.
"That was a tough loss, Sedona is now our rival, no doubt about it," Gower said.
The Longhorns will have the opportunity to avenge that narrow defeat Aug. 25 in Sedona during a preseason scrimmage. Game time is noon.
Payson also plays Sedona Oct. 13 at Rumsey Park.
The regular season opens in earnest Aug. 17 against Northland Prep Academy at Rumsey Park. Game time is 4 p.m.
The highlight of the upcoming season will be the Payson Invitational Sept. 28 and 29 at Rumsey.
Gower hopes 12 teams will participate, but said only about three have thus far officially entered.
The Horns also travel Sept. 7 and 8 to Show Low, where they will compete in the Cougar Invitational. Regional and state schedules have not been finalized.