Having three winter sports teams currently ranked among the top five in Arizona is a commendable accomplishment for Payson High School.
There are several prep polls compiled around the state, but in most, the Longhorn boys basketball team is rated fourth. Although the Lady Horns have lost three of their last five games, they were also fourth-ranked in the most recent poll.
The rapidly improving wrestling team is hanging on to fourth in the 3A conference.
Those types of accomplishments lend a good deal of credibility to the school and could ultimately result in PHS winning, for only the second time ever, the Arizona Interscholastic Association's Don F. Stone Award. The award goes annually to the 1A-3A school that exhibits overall excellence in interscholastic activities.
Payson High School won the prestigious awards in the spring of 1999 after producing the most successful extracurricular program in the two conferences.
In selecting a winner for the Stone Award, Arizona high schools -- of which there are about 70 in the 2A and 3A conference -- receive points based on a system outlined in the Arizona Interscholastic Association bylaws. Earning a state athletic championship is worth 16 points, state runners-up receive eight points and division champions four. Points are also given for proper game management and sportsmanlike conduct throughout the school year.
In music, points are doled for superior ratings at the solo and ensemble regional music awards.
Sweepstakes winners in speech earn 10 points, runners-up receive five, and each district or division winner gets two points.
Points can also be deducted for incidents that require corrective action or school reports that are sent late to the AIA. Any school placed on warning or probation is not eligible for the overall excellence award.
During the 1998-99 school year, Longhorn teams won state championships in football, wrestling, baseball and girls track and field. The band earned a "superior" rating at state, the speech and debate team won state honors and advanced to the nationals, and the drama club earned an excellent rating at the state Thespian competition. The drama group also produced its first major musical in 15 years -- "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers."
The school also did not have any incidents that required deduction of points.
Teachers, coaches, fans, students and parents remember the feat was quite an accomplishment that was wildly celebrated at an all-school assembly led by teacher and coach Dennis Pirch, now retired.
BR also a Stone contender
If Payson is to win a second Stone award, the school might have to outdistance longtime East rival Blue Ridge in the AIA point's race.
The Yellow Jackets pursuit of a Stone citation began Nov. 3 with the Lakeside-Pinetop boys and girl's soccer teams winning Class 1A-3A state championships.
The BR boys used superior depth to defeat Tucson St. Gregory 3-1 for the state title. The Lady Yellow Jackets stung the Show Low Cougars 5-1 in the state finale. In the Class 3A state cross-country championships, Blue Ridge finished as state runner-up to Chinle.
The Yellow Jacket volleyball team took a state-opening round 3-0 win over Tuba City, but lost in the quarterfinals to eventual state champion Parker.
In football, BR advanced to the state semifinals before losing to neighboring Show Low.
Tonto Apache gym Directors Eric Pendleton and Randy Pryor will host a 3-on-3 basketball tournament tomorrow, Saturday, in the Tonto Apache gymnasium, south of Payson.
The fee is $30, cash only, and is open to the first eight teams to enter.
The tournament will feature a single elimination format, but the championship will be decided by a "best two-of-three" finale.
Prizes will be award to first and second place.
To enter, or for more information, call Pendleton or Randy Pryor at (928) 978-0575.