A Longhorn football team expected to challenge for East region and 3A state honors wrapped up a five-day preseason football camp at noon today, July 25, at Payson High School and Rumsey Park.
During the camp, the players shared their temporary living quarters -- old PHS gymnasium --ith the Kingman Bulldog football team.
Teams representing Tucson Sahuaro, Ganado and Glendale Cortez were housed in Wilson Dome.
While all five teams practiced independently during two-a-day sessions at PHS and Rumsey Park, they met in 7-on-7 passing league competitions each evening.
PHS coach Josh Anderson called the camp "the biggest and best we've seen."
The annual camp served as a training ground for the seven seniors who are expected to lead the Longhorns to the gridiron promised land this season.
They are Ridge Halenar, Matt Wilson, Nick Goodman, Bryan Burke, David Carlen, Tyler Savage and Shane Keith.
All are being counted on to fill the void left by the graduation last spring of standouts from last year's 8-4 team including Scott Andrus, Nick Alexander, Troy Brown and B.J. Hill.
Among the senior returners, Halenar was first team all-region and all state in 2007, playing both quarterback and safety.
Coaches have said it will be his job this year to provide the leadership all good prep football teams must have to succeed.
Wilson is a 6-foot-6-inch, 265-pound two-way lineman that has the added advantage of being an honor student at PHS. His intelligence usually bodes well for him on the field in that he makes good decision and is a student of the game.
The other bookend on the Horns' offensive and defensive lines is the 6-foot-4-inch, 225-pound Burke who was both all-region and all-state last season.
Carlen will most likely start at middle linebacker in defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes' 43 scheme.
Last year he led the team in tackles and is known around the region for both his speed and hard hits.
Savage, also a standout basketball and baseball player, is a speedy wide receiver and outside linebacker.
When Halenar looks to throw, Savage could be his primary target.
Keith is a three-year starter at defensive back who will be counted on to provide run support and also drop into pass coverage. Offensively, he could play slotback.
Goodman could also see action in the defensive backfield, but is best known for his play at fullback.
Along with the talented group of returning senior starters, Anderson and Hayes have several underclassmen who could provide much-needed depth. They include Brandon Alexander, Westin Gibson, Payson Herring and kicker Josh Frewin.
In Frewin, the Horns have a soccer-style kicker who can boot the field goal or extra point needed for a close victory.
Preseason practices begin in earnest on Aug. 4.
The season kicks off Aug. 22 with a controlled scrimmage against Camp Verde in Longhorn stadium.
The regular season begins Aug. 29 at Fountain Hills.
The Horns do not have an East region game until Oct. 3 at Show Low.