Preseason Football Buzz Is Not About The Longhorns

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I find it puzzling that the gridiron buzz in the White Mountain football hot bed centers mostly on Blue Ridge, Snowflake, Round Valley, Show Low, Coolidge and Wickenburg.

Very little mention is made in community newspapers, Web sites, on school grounds and in town coffee shops about Payson High's football prospects for the coming season.

I mentioned the slight during a short conversation with PHS coach Josh Anderson. He said that although the team is being ignored in some circles, the Horns are well-respected among coaches.

Of course, Anderson -- like all good coaches -- would probably rather not have the recognition. It's usually an advantage to play the role of underdog and ambush a few unsuspecting foes along the way.

"Sneak in, get a win and sneak out before they even know you were there," was former Show Low and Hayden High School coach Digger O'Dell's game plan for away games.

But what's troubling is that some of Payson's very fine players are being overlooked in preseason prognostications.

The Arizona Republic listed several Class 3A athletes on a "Players to Watch" list which was published in Sunday's edition. Nary a Payson player was included on the list that included individuals from Round Valley, Wickenburg, Show Low, Coolidge, Fountain Hills, Blue Ridge and even Kayenta Monument Valley.

I can't help but believe Payson has some athletes that should be included on that gold chip list.

Also much of the talk in 3A circles is about Snowflake's blazing speed, Round Valley linebacker Travis Trickey committing to UNLV, new Show Low coach Randy Ricedorff, Paul Moro's 23 years at Blue Ridge and Round Valley's return to glory years under coach Russ Semore.

Wickenburg is also drawing a good deal of respect for upsetting Blue Ridge in last year's semifinals. Coolidge is being touted as possibly winning a third consecutive stat title.

Although there is plenty of gridiron gab in the White Mountains, nothing much is being said about Payson having possibly its best group of athletes since 1998.

Maybe Payson is being overlooked because the Horns finished 4-6 last fall.

But with a trio of solid linemen returning -- Scott Andrus, Matt Wilson and Bryan Burke -- and a solid quarterback in Ridge Halenar, the Horns appear to have the talent to make a run at the postseason.

Toss running backs B.J. Hill, David Carlen, Shane Keith and Brandon Alexander in the lineup, and Payson has a stable of capable ball carriers.

Zach Brooks and Tyler Savage also give the Longhorns two capable receivers.

Are the Horns deserving of more preseason accolades than they are receiving?

Only time will tell, but along the way the players might want to use the slights as a motivational edge to show just how good they really are.

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