The Payson High School Longhorn wrestling team is set to have another of the benefit spaghetti dinners that have long provided sports fans with a lip-smacking meal at a budget price.
The Italian feast will be held 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 25 in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria. Tickets are $3 for children, $6 for adults and $20 for a family pass.
Longtime assistant wrestling coach and PHS counselor Don Heizer remembers the origins of the spaghetti dinners well.
"Dennis (Pirch, former PHS wrestling coach) and I were looking for ways to earn money so the kids could go to Disneyland during the Christmas vacation," he said. "We came up with the spaghetti dinners. They earned good money, and we've never stopped doing them."
For the first dinner, Heizer and Pirch enlisted the cooking expertise of Pine Realtor Mark Fumusa who had two sons on the team.
His two sons have long since departed PHS, but Fumusa continues to play a huge role in hosting the event.
For the upcoming dinner, Fumusa and his six volunteer assistants will spend the entire day cooking a spaghetti feast for the more than 500 people expected to attend.
The cooks will use about 110 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 120 pounds of ground beef, four gallons of homemade salad dressing and 100 pounds of flour for homemade rolls prepared by Jacque Lee.
As delicious as the homemade meals are, they have become much more than an Italian dinner.
"It's a time and place where we can all gather and enjoy the fellowship of one another," Heizer said. "It's the type of things we can have in a small town."
The benefit also produces funds the wrestling team uses for travel and to purchase equipment not available in the school's athletic budget.
Heizer estimates the dinners now earn more than $2,000 thanks to donations of food items from the Mazatzal Casino, Bashas' and Safeway.
"Without the money earned at the dinners, we would not be able to do a lot of the things for kids we now do," Heizer said.
The coach also sees the dinners as events that benefit everyone.
"It's a win-win situation," he said. "The team earns the money it needs and the people get a great meal at a low price."
Whiteriver Alchesay Lady Falcon basketball coach Genny Endfield can be excused for wondering "what if."
As in, "what if" two of the team's outstanding players hadn't transferred to other schools?
Had the talented duo of Rhea Cosay and Shaya Henderson remained in Whiteriver, the Lady Falcons, who are 10-7 overall and 3-1 in the region having lost only 63-58 to league leading Round Valley, might now be the class of the East.
But last summer, Cosay packed her bags and left for Payson and Henderson fled for the brighter Valley lights at Tempe High.
Both would have been seniors this season at Alchesay.
Rim Country fans know just how good Cosay has become. She's first in the East region in assists and second in scoring and steals.
Her floor leadership skills have also been a huge boost to PHS playoff hopes.
Losing a player of her caliber would be a blow to any prep program, but couple it with Henderson's decision to leave Whiteriver, and onlookers are left wondering how Alchesay is doing as well as it is.
At Tempe, Henderson is the Buffaloes' leading scorer in most games and has helped the team earn a Class 4A Division II number five state ranking with her spirited style of play.
In the Lady Buffs' 72-55 win Jan.12 over Arcadia, Harrison took game-scoring honors with 25 points.
Harrison has said she hopes to earn a collegiate basketball scholarship and believes Tempe High offers her more exposure and a better chance at earning one.