Alumni, parents, teachers and students will be hootin' and hollerin' throughout the week as Homecoming festivities heat up the Payson High School campus.
The festivities, sponsored by STUGO (also known as Student Government), kick off at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 25 with a bonfire at the Payson Event Center.
The following day, Wednesday, activities continue with a "Class Color Day" in which each of the four PHS classes will wear a designated color.
The freshmen have been assigned orange; the sophomores red; juniors green; and seniors blue.
Wednesday and Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., students in the four classes will meet in the school's auto shop to build their floats that will be entered in the homecoming parade.
The parade begins about 1:30 p.m. at Julia Randall Elementary School and proceeds east on the Main Street along the same route it has traveled the past two decades. The parade, after passing Rim Country Middle School on Meadow, will end at the Payson High School parking lot located north of the football field.
Prior to the parade, the "Sludge to the Judge" cross-country run will be held on Main Street.
The run, which covers about three miles, begins at the Gila County Sanitary Plant and ends at the Gila County offices located on the corner of Main and Beeline.
At halftime of Friday evening's football game, the homecoming king and queen will be crowned.
The senior king candidates include Nick Alexander, B.J. Hill, Anthony Pearce and Alan Wolfe.
Senior queen candidates are Courtney Morris, Janet Echols, Aubrey Laird and Kaitlin Phylow.
Junior attendants are David Carlen and Alesha Raecke.
Sophomores are Cliff Lopez and Collette Sexton. Caleb Harrison and Tori McDaniel will represent the sophomore class.
Homecoming festivities will wrap up at the traditional dance to be held from 8 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 in the old Payson High School gymnasium.
As fun and exciting as the revelry is, it is the football game, which kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, that is the highlight of the week.
The game is especially meaningful this year, in that the Longhorns' opponent is none other than longtime East region rival Show Low.
The clash represents the first in a string of five consecutive all important region games. The results of those showdowns will decide the Longhorns postseason fate.
And of course, there never is any love lost between the Cougars and the Horns when the two teams meet, no matter the sport.
The rivalry between the two teams dates back to 1981 when the Tom Fruth led Horns opened the season with a convincing win over the Cougars.
The Horns will be out to deflate the state fourth-ranked cats and prove to other region members that Payson is the real deal and should not have been overlooked in polls and prognostications, as has been the situation all season long.
In Show Low, however, Payson is considered somewhat a stepchild, since the school is not located in the White Mountains, along with the other East region teams.
Which means, a Show Low loss to the Longhorns would be a tough defeat to absorb in Cougar-land.
In Payson, a win would be the morale-booster the Horns need, as the team begins the region road to what could be the school's third state championship.