Former Longhorn football coach Don Heizer bemoaned "what ifs," constantly telling his players, "If ‘ifs' and ‘buts' were candy and nuts, every day would be a holiday."
The veteran coach's sage advice is solid, but some local football fans can't help wondering "what if" the Longhorn football team had eliminated its mistakes in two narrow losses to the teams that will be playing in the Class 3A state championship?
Had that happened, the Horns might be taking the field in the Nov. 24 finale at the University of Arizona in Tucson, rather than watching from the sidelines.
Against state semifinalist Coolidge in state quarterfinal action Nov. 10 at Chandler Perry High School, the Horns dropped a 16-14 decision on a late safety.
On the play, a misfired long snap from center sailed over the Payson punter's head and into the end zone, where it resulted in Coolidge's winning safety.
For most of the game, Payson had outplayed the Bears.
The Horns suffered a similar defeat on miscues Sept. 28, during a 14-7 loss to the other state semifinalist -- the Show Low Cougars.
Following that loss, PHS coach Josh Anderson attributed the poor showing to mistakes, blunders and slip-ups.
"We did so many uncharacteristic things as an entire team, which Show Low had absolutely nothing to do with," he said.
"For example, lining up wrong on offense and defense, not hearing the play call in the huddle, bringing in the wrong offensive play to the huddle, blocking the wrong defenders, falling down, false starting when we didn't know the snap count and a key substitution error."
The title games
Coolidge advanced to the state final by whipping Round Valley 37-21 in the state semifinals played Nov. 17 at Mesa College.
Surprisingly, Show Low earned a ducat to the big show by upsetting highly favored and previously unbeaten Blue Ridge 17-7 in the state semifinals.
The championship showdowns, pitting the Cougars against the Bears, will kick off at 5 p.m. It will be preceded at noon by the 2A championship clash between St. Johns and Arizona Lutheran.