What a ride.
And now it’s all on the line.
Tomorrow in Flagstaff, the Longhorns face rival Blue Ridge for the 3A state championship.
Naturally enough — we know we’re going to win — and crown a glorious season with the game of the year. We hope everyone in town will pile into something with wheels and show up at the Walkup Skydome on the Northern Arizona University campus for the kickoff.
In the meantime, we wanted to work this in now, so you won’t think we only appreciate hard work, dedication and sacrifice when it results in a championship.
Make no mistake — the Longhorn champions will crowd the field on Saturday, no matter what numbers end up on the scoreboard.
Such a team assembles maybe once a decade — and we are grateful to be in the stands shouting ourselves hoarse for these kids, their coaches, their parents — and the community we love so dearly.
That’s just because we understand the effort it took to get to this moment — with everything on the line.
Remember that some of the stars on the current team got into some trouble in their sophomore year — prompting Coach Josh Anderson to suspend some promising players for the season. That proved controversial at the time and we mention it now only because the response of those players demonstrated their true character.
Instead of transferring or complaining or appealing, they took their punishment and cheered their teammates and then spent the next two years working their hearts out.
Not only have the Longhorn players excelled on the field, they have become leaders on campus, according to Payson High School Principal Roy Sandoval. Superstar athletes can lord it over other students — or they can set an example of hard work and school spirit that can make the whole school a better place. We’re proud to say, this year’s players have done just that.
So we wanted to take this moment to congratulate the team, the coaches and the parents for proving beyond any shadow of a doubt that they’re winners — and represent the finest this community has to offer.
So, guys — just know that you don’t have to win tomorrow to prove that to us all.
Of course, if you do want to go ahead and kick a little Blue Ridge butt — well, that’s OK with us.
A tale of love and hope
Here is how it starts.
Kenny Powell had every reason to hang onto every penny. He had problems. He’d made some big mistakes. He’d been working to put his life back together. And he hadn’t had a real home in 20 years, when he found his way to Payson.
So what did he do?
Well, he gave the last clenched handful of his food stamps to a local charity, to buy turkeys for a Thanksgiving feast for folks even more homeless than he.
Now, that’s the Christmas Spirit.
That’s one way he responded to the generosity that strangers had shown him. So, in that moment, he became part of the cycle of compassion that this season celebrates — the multiplication of the fishes and loaves of love.
Powell came to Payson down to his last dollar. So he stopped at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — asking not for a room, but for some gas money.
The good folks there gave the unemployed mechanic the gas money — and some odd jobs to do. So he settled in, worked wherever he could. And because he proved humble and kind and willing, more blessings came to him. A Payson dentist fixed his teeth, so infected that they were causing other health problems.
And now Steve Drury and other church members like Dean Martinson and Ken Caldwell have taken the lead in finding a small trailer abandoned in a Star Valley mobile home park that they could refurbish, to give Powell the first place he can call home in decades.
Now, that’s the Christmas Spirit.
So now we want you to help us.
For the next month, we would like to feature stories like that — small tales of love and compassion that exemplify not only this season — but the great, good heart of this wonderful community.
If you have such a tale to tell — or perhaps a need that needs filling — please let us know. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, drop a note with details of the story we can pursue to our offices at 708 N. Beeline Highway or mail to P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547.
Let us know — we’ll let our readers know.
And perhaps that story, will inspire someone else to donate their last few dollars to charity in the shining faith that love begats love in this or any season.
Because that is how it starts.