Payson High School first year varsity head coach Chad Gower is elated that Pioneer Title has again agreed to sponsor the Payson Invitational Challenge Tournament.
"It's great, they will buy the T-shirts and do some other things...it really helps us out," the coach said Monday after learning the local title company had made the decision to help foot the tab.
The tournament, to be held Sept. 28 and 29 on two Rumsey Park fields, has drawn eight teams from around the state, including longtime Longhorn rivals Sedona, St. Johns, Round Valley and Snowflake. Also entered are St. Michael and Northland Prep of Flagstaff.
Last year, under the leadership of former coach Austin White, the Horns finished 3-1-2 in the tournament.
Payson's lone loss was to long time state championship contender Sedona.
The two rivals met again a month later in the state tournament. In a for-all-the-marbles showdown, the Horns was eliminated from the postseason with a 2-1 highly controversial loss to Sedona.
That game, however, might have gone down in the Longhorn win column, had it not been for two bad breaks.
Midway through the game, David Hernandez -- a team captain this season -- 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 Anthony Pearce -- also the starting goalie this season -- had saved the ball, as it hit the post.
It took almost a minute after play continued for the lineman official to finally rule it was indeed a goal.
"That was a tough loss, Sedona is now our rival, no doubt about it," Gower said.
If the two teams meet in the upcoming Pioneer Title Challenge, it will be on the second day of the fray, because the schools are aligned in different tournament groups.
Sedona is in Group A, along with St. Johns, Northland Prep and Round Valley.
Payson has been assigned Group B with Snowflake, Valley Lutheran and St. Michaels.
On the opening day of the tournament, teams will meet in groups, or pools, only.
The first two games the second day, will also be in groups.
Beginning Saturday afternoon, the teams will be cross-seeded into final brackets, based on their win-loss records in-group play.
The No. 4 seeds from both groups play one another, as do the No. 3 finishers. Those games are at 2 p.m.
Immediately following, about 4 p.m., the No. 1 seeds from each group clash, as do the No. 2 seeds from Group A and B.
Payson is in action opening day at 9 a.m. against Valley Lutheran and at 2 p.m. vs. St. Michael. Both games are on the north Rumsey field.
The Horns wrap up group action at 9 a.m. Saturday against Snowflake on the Rumsey South field.
Gower said it is the team's goal to win the group title and advance to the tournament championship.
The Horns tuned up for the Pioneer Classic Sept. 19 at Rumsey Park, with a 1-0 win over Round Valley. David Hernandez scored the game's only goal.