It must have taken a huge amount of restraint and coolness for coaches, players, fans and boosters to not tear down, or at least move, that huge Blue Ridge “Tradition of Champions” banner placed so blatantly on the sideline end of the PHS football field where the Longhorns were warming up Friday night.
Not only was the banner strategically placed on Payson’s end of the field, it was facing the home stands.
I couldn’t see who put the banner there because I was a guest on the KMOG pre-game show that was being broadcast from the north parking lot.
But I’m sure I know who schemed the dastardly deed, as most in Payson do.
The vexatious episode brought back memories of a similar incident during a 1983 regular season-ending game between Show Low and Payson.
As the head coach at Show Low High, I was hoping we could slip by the Longhorns and win the school’s first-ever region championship and a berth into the state tournament. That would have been a first for the school as well.
At Show Low High, a growing tradition were spirit towels, which students waved whenever the Cougars pulled off a good play.
In those days, we called them “Growl Towels” and they were one of the few sources of pride in a school that had not experienced much athletic success.
The towels were white and inscribed with a large Clemson-like gold Cougar paw which we also had decaled on our helmets.
Just a few days prior to the Cougar vs. Longhorn football game, the Lady Horn volleyballers played in Show Low.
It seems that a player or a fan pocketed a beloved Growl Towel and returned it to Payson where it was given to a football player.
When we took to the PHS field on game night for warm-ups, I noticed the Payson center, who I believe is now a teacher at Blue Ridge High School, had the Growl Towel stuck in his pants behind his back.
That is nothing unusual — it’s done to give the quarterback a place to dry his hands.
But this was our beloved Growl Towel and my players were agitated, to say the least.
How they actually felt, I can’t write in a family newspaper.
You see, in those days Show Low and Payson weren’t on the best of terms. In fact, they might have been on the worst of terms.
In the basketball season following that football showdown, a fight broke out in old PHS gym between Payson and Show Low players. It didn’t take long for benches to clear and administrators, coaches and fans to join in the donnybrook.
Finally, police quelled the brouhaha.
But bustling tales of that battle, which have been embellished through the years, are best left for another Extra Points column.
After I realized it was a Growl Towel in the Longhorn center’s pants, I was about to approach PHS coach Terry Nodlinski to ask it be removed.
But before I could get to Terry, my captain — Darrin Owens — daringly raced to the PHS end of the field directly into a large huddle of Longhorn players.
He boldly snatched the towel out of the player’s pants and returned it to me at the opposite end of the field.
I don’t remember my first thoughts but they might have been something along the lines that if a riot should break out, we were greatly outnumbered.
Thankfully, it didn’t.
I still keep in touch with Darrin. He’s a married father of three children and a teacher and coach in Utah.
I’m kind of glad he wasn’t in the Payson stands Friday night.
Little League officials are laying the foundation for the 2009 campaign.
League president Slade Gibson says a meeting will be held at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 29 at Payson Elementary School to elect the next board of directors.
Only those members in good standing will be eligible to vote for the directors.
Those unable to attend may obtain a ballot by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.