There's no dampening the enthusiasm Payson High School football coach Josh Anderson has for the upcoming Arizona Football Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game.
"This is great, a first-class experience for the coaches and the players," he said from Surprise where the two star teams have spent the past week practicing for the annual game which will be played at 7 p.m. today, June 13, in Surprise Stadium.
Anderson lauded the practice facilities the all-star teams have been provided, the fine hotel where the coaches and players are staying and the overall atmosphere of the experience.
"The kids are quick learners and good athletes as All-Stars should be," he said. "And the coaches association and the city of Surprise have done everything they could to make this a great week."
For the game, Anderson is serving as the defensive coordinator of the North team, of which, former PHS fullback Nick Alexander is a member.
Anderson was originally tapped to be the North head coach but turned the reins over to Show Low's Randy Reisdorf.
"I demoted myself," he said. "I want to make sure I have some experience as an assistant first, so I know how things are supposed to be run, as well as what to expect."
As defensive coordinator, Anderson will have the North stars playing basically the same 43 defense the Horns relied on all last year.
"We'll also stay in a cover-4 (secondary) to keep things simple," he said.
Cover 4 employs four deep defensive backs that can be aligned four-across or the safeties can line up closer to the line of scrimmage. The scheme was used extensively by Arizona State University last year.
Offensively, Anderson expects Reisdorf to gear up the same attack he employed at Show Low High last year.
Which means, the team could be in a double wing, spread formation with a good deal of motion and the quarterback receiving the ball from the shotgun position.
Anderson said he was unsure whether Alexander will start in Reisdorf's "O" but expects the former PHS star to see extensive playing time.
Alexander's selection to the All-Star team in January marked the culmination of a senior season in which the hard-charging fullback was also named to the All-East region and Class 3A All-State first teams.
Anderson called Alexander's selection a fitting tribute to a gutsy player who wasn't supposed to play last season, due to a series of concussions he suffered earlier in his football career.
The 5-foot-8-inch, 195-pound Alexander, however, put his previous maladies aside long enough to become one of the finest fullbacks in the state.
Running mostly dives and traps between the tackles where real estate can be hard to come by, Alexander finished with 925 yards on 127 carries and nine TDs. His average of 7.28 yards per carry was among the best marks in the East.
His finest game was the 227 yards he racked up in the 23-3 win over Winslow. One week later in a 48-7 victory over Florence, 48-7, Alexander rushed for 141 yards. Also, in 11 games of churning out tough yardage, he fumbled only once.
"He was the perfect smash-mouth fullback in our power-option offense," Anderson said.
"He could drag a pile (of tacklers) with him."
By playing in the celestial clash, Alexander joins an elite group of former Longhorns who also once played in the postseason classic.
They include Luke Apfel, Mark Hanna, Greg Armstrong, Mark Velasco, Matt and Curt Rambo, Carl Whittle, Ty Goodman, Cable Morris, Cade Bradley and others.