Former Payson High School football coach Josh Anderson and his defensive coordinator Kenny Hayes are bringing a distinctive small-town Arizona look to the Dakota State University Trojan football program.
Among the local players the two have signed since the pair took over the DSU program in the spring are Winslow’s Stacey Berg, Shane Keith of Payson High School, Eric Liles of Coolidge and Fountain Hills’ Connon Ruppert.
Anderson has also reeled in several players from Chino Valley, a school he coached before moving to Payson in 2006.
CV recruits include Garrett Worster, Cole Whisenhunt, Jess Feicher and Eric Farrar who played at Chino, but actually will be a transfer from Scottsdale Community College.
Anderson is also waiting the signing of former Blue Ridge star Steel Armstrong to become official.
The only “big school” player from Arizona set to attend DSU is Mesa High’s Weston Dauz.
The Arizona players will join a recruiting class that includes 23 South Dakota players, three from Iowa and one each from Minnesota, Missouri and Washington.
Anderson predicts the recruits will be “a part of the turnaround that’s going to happen for DSU football.”
Armchair quarterbacks from around the state are already picking the 3A conference’s top 10 team for the upcoming season.
The general consensus is that Blue Ridge will, as usual, begin the season top-ranked.
But, that’s not unusual. When haven’t the Yellow Jackets been the preseason favorite?
Some think Estrella Foothills, led by former Snowflake coach Rich Hoyt, should be ranked right behind the Jackets.
Hoyt is a fine, fine coach. He led Williams to several titles, coached Winslow to some championships and in 1986 led Snowflake to a 7-0 win over Payson in the state championship game.
Although Payson is facing the toughest schedule in school history, some think the Horns have the talent to be ranked in the top five.
Show Low, the state champion two years ago, is also being considered a top-five team, as is Fountain Hills.
Show Low’s hopes are being buoyed by the return of their second year starting quarterback who is also the son of the head coach.
Others being included in the preliminary rankings are Empire, Winslow, Snowflake and Wickenburg.
Snowflake is interesting in that the Lobos have a rich football tradition, but has struggled since former Winslow coach Adam Larsen took over the reins of the program.
Winslow plays in the weak North Region, so about all the Bulldogs have to do to win the region is show up on Friday night. Rumors are, however, that Ganado has a transfer quarterback from Texas that is billed as a superstar. But, one player does not make a program.
The West, with Chino Valley, Wickenburg and Estrella figures to be much improved.
The South, which has Empire, Fountain Hills, Coolidge and Safford, could be a dogfight.
Oddly enough, the East’s Round Valley and its potent air game is not being mentioned much as a ranked team. The slight is possibly due to the loss of several key players.
What makes the entire season very interesting is how power points will play out in the race for the postseason.
Teams this year receive power points only for the final seven games, so the first three games are virtually meaningless.
Payson will be one of the teams hurt since the Horns will not receive points for playing Class 4A Mingus as its third game.