The last time a Payson High School team shared a region championship and fell to a state tournament third-place seed, as the Lady Longhorns did earlier this week, was in 2005.
Fans will remember that three years ago the Longhorn football team, coached by Jerry Rhoades, wrapped up the season tied with Blue Ridge and Round Valley for the East championship. All three teams sported region 5-1 records.
Payson fell from a possible No. 1 seed to No. 3 as a result of a coin flip that took place during a three-way conference call originating in the office of Holbrook High School Athletic Director Paul DeMuth.
On the first "odd team No. 1 flip," Round Valley was the odd side of the coin and received the first seed.
On the next flip, involving Blue Ridge and Payson, then PHS athletic director Dave Bradley made the losing "heads" call and the Yellow Jackets went go to state as the East's No. 2 team.
Payson fell to third and was forced to open the state tournament on the road against South region runner-up Safford.
Falling to a third-place seed after such a remarkable regular season was only the beginning of the heartbreak for Payson. The season and pursuit of a state championship came to an end with a heartbreaking 15-14 loss to the Bulldogs.
Rendering the game even more gut-wrenching is that the Horns committed two turnovers, were called for seven penalties and suffered from an officiating crew that drew the ire of Rhoades and his staff.
Leading 14-3 with eight minutes remaining in the game, the Horns appeared on the verge of advancing to the second round of state. But in those final few minutes, the Horns managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Since that fatal coin flip, the process of solving ties in the final standings has been changed. Now, the power-points system is used as a tie-breaker.
But changing systems didn't do the Lady Horns much good after they tied Round Valley and Alchesay for the 2007-2008 hoop title. They still fell from first to third.
About power points
Although the power-points system has been highly controversial in other conferences, East region presidents decided last spring it was needed to fairly seed teams into state tournament brackets.
PHS athletic director Jason Lobik realizes the system provokes strong disagreement, but says it's now in place and 3A teams have to deal with it.
"Some (schools) benefit by it, some don't," he said. "But the rule will apply to team sports only."
Which means, it governs football, basketball, volleyball, baseball and softball only.
In the new system, the top-three teams from each of the four geographical regions, North, East, South and West, receive automatic berths into the state tournament.
"The top-three teams are protected," Lobik said.
The remaining slots in the state tournament are filled by using the Arizona Interscholastic Association Power Points system.
In it, teams are awarded 45 points for each victory over a Class 2A opponent, 50 points for a win against a 3A foe and 55 points for a win over a 4A school.
Also, five victory points are doled out for every win over opponents who score a triumph over a team from within the same conference.
For every victory over an opponent that wins a game over a team one classification below their own conference, 4.5 victory points are awarded.
Wins over opponents with a win over schools one class above their own conference are worth 5.5 victory points.
To determine a power points total, all points are divided by the number of games played.
D-backs are coming to town
Arizona Diamondbacks players Stephen Drew and Doug Slaten, along with broadcasters Tom Candiotti and Jeff Munn, are set to visit Payson.
The D-backs will make an appearance in front of Rim Country Middle School students from 10 to 11:30 a.m. in Feb. 7 Wilson Dome. The event is not open to the public. The appearance represents a stop in the team's annual Hometown Tour, sponsored by Arizona Public Service.
In addition to stopping in Payson, the team will visit Snowflake, Globe and the Gila River Casino near Chandler.