The smell of pigskin permeated the Rim Country air yesterday, July 21, as football teams representing five Arizona High Schools showed up at Wilson Dome to kick off week-long preseason camps.
On hand along with host Payson were teams representing Kingman, Tucson Sahuaro, Glendale Cortez and Ganado.
Although the camp is being held in Payson, each team will conduct its only individual camp under the direction of each of the school's football staff.
The number and quality of teams that opted to train in Payson impressed Longhorn coach Josh Anderson.
"This is the biggest and best camp we've seen," he said.
Training sessions will continue until the camps wrap up at noon July 25.
During the week, the about 250 players will bunk in Wilson Dome and old PHS gym in their own sleeping bags, eat in the PHS cafeteria and undergo practice sessions on the PHS baseball and football fields and at Rumsey Park.
"We will have 7-on-7 (passing league) competitions every night at 7 p.m. on the South and North turf fields of Rumsey Park," Anderson said.
The passing games, which are similar to touch football, are open to the public and there is no admission charge.
Among the returning letter winners the Longhorns have in camp are Ridge Halenar, Matt Wilson, Bryan Burke, David Carlen, Tyler Savage and Shane Keith.
During the camp, the players and staff will be working to improve on last year's effort that included an 8-4 overall record, 2-3 in the East and a berth in the state semifinals where the team lost a 16-14 heartbreaker to Coolidge.
For Payson, the camp also marks the end of off-season training that has included weight training, conditioning sessions and appearances in several passing league tournaments including ones at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and Arizona State University in Tempe.
At the conclusion of this week's camp, the players will have a short respite from the gridiron before 2008 practice begins in earnest on Aug. 4.