Was it the ghost of Tontozona-scorned that led to Arizona State University’s dismal 4-8 football season and crazy last-second 20-17 loss to archrival Arizona?
Or was the Devils’ demise simply because the team was undisciplined, under-prepared and lacking sufficient talent to play in the rugged Pac-10?
Who knows the answers, but coach Dennis Erickson is sitting on a hot seat after seeing his Devils under-achieve for a second consecutive season.
As the son of a high school football coach, a man who has been the head coach at six different college football programs and two NFL franchises, Erickson certainly has the pedigree to lead ASU to the gridiron promised land.
But after a banner first season at the helm of the Devils, Erickson’s teams have fallen on hard times and its tough to uncover exactly what’s behind ASU’s recent problems.
Certainly a return to the tradition of Tontozona for preseason camp would help build the camaraderie, cohesiveness and mental and physical toughness it takes to play collegiate football.
But Erickson and the bigwigs at Arizona State have turned a deaf ear to the thought of returning to the camp, even though Tontozona has long been considered the team’s richest tradition and a piece of the school’s soul.
For ASU alum, watching their university lose to Arizona on Saturday was gut-wrenching, but it was equally as distasteful the following day when the Arizona Cardinals lost a 20-17 heartbreaker to the Tennessee Titans.
In the Cards’ un-shuffling, Arizona was kept at bay, especially in a three point first half, by Titans defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil’s bandits.
Cecil is not fondly remembered by ASU faithful who recall the 1986 ASU vs. Arizona game in which he returned an interception 100 yards to notch a Wildcat upset victory. The play has been voted the greatest in Arizona football history.
The Wildcats’ win and the performance of Cecil’s stifling defense against the Cards made for a rough weekend for some of our state’s football fans.
Oh well, ASU’s football season is finally over and it’s time to turn our attention to the hardwood.
Go Herb Sendeck.
Fast-pitch clinics over the horizon
Payson Little League Girls Softball Fast-pitch officials are making an all-out effort to improve the quality of pitching, fielding and hitting in our town’s young athletes.
Among the opportunities fledglings will soon have to learn new skills and hone existing ones are a series of clinics to be hosted by former Lady Longhorn coach Curtis Johnson.
On hand to assist the coach will be his daughter Candice, an all-region and all-state hurler for the Lady Longhorns from 2004 to 2008.
Upcoming pitching clinics are set for Dec. 12, 19, 23, 30 and Jan. 9 on the Kiwanis fields at Rumsey Park. The session for beginners will be 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. and skills sessions for advanced are 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
The fee is $5 per session.
The clinics are open to players of Little League age, 8 to 14 years.
Little League official Felicia Moore calls the clinics “an opportunity for girls to learn (fast-pitch).”
Also for aspiring players, fielding clinics are scheduled for Dec. 23 and a hitting clinic on Dec. 30.
For both the fielding and hitting clinics, sessions for those 10 years and under will be from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The 11-year-olds and up will meet 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Moore predicts the skills learned will help the girls during tryouts, which will be conducted Feb. 20.
At the clinics, players will also have the opportunity to sign up for 2010 Little League play.
The registration fee for minor, major and junior league play is $75 until Feb. 1. After the deadline the fee is $80.
The fee for the coach-pitch league is $50.
Families with more than two children participating will not have to pay for more than two players.
“This year, as a board we decided (that),” Moore said.
Spaghetti feast for matmen
Most every Longhorn coach, fan, parent and athlete has enjoyed one or more of the spaghetti dinners held annually to benefit the Payson High School wrestling program. Those who have, usually fondly remember the good times associated with the annual benefit.
This year, Mark Fumusa again will be helping prepare the meal, which will be held from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 21 in the Rim Country Middle School cafeteria.
All-you-can-eat tickets are $5 per person or $25 per family. Tickets are available from any wrestler or at the door.
This year, PHS wrestling coach Travis Koppenhafer has asked booster club member Jacque Lee to oversee the event.
For it, a crew of about six volunteer assistants, led by Fumusa and Lee, will spend the entire day cooking a spaghetti feast for the more than 500 people expected to attend.
The cooks will use about 110 pounds of spaghetti noodles, 120 pounds of ground beef, four gallons of homemade salad dressing and 100 pounds of flour for delicious homemade rolls prepared by Lee.
As lip-smacking good as the homemade meals are, they have become much more than an Italian dinner.
“It’s a time and place where we can all gather and enjoy the fellowship of one another,” said longtime assistant wrestling coach and PHS counselor Don Heizer. “It’s the type of thing we can do in a small town.”
The benefit also produces money the wrestling team uses for travel and to purchase equipment not available in the school’s athletic budget.
Heizer estimates the dinners can earn more than $2,000 annually, thanks to donations of food items.
The coach also sees the dinners as events that benefit everyone. “It’s a win-win situation,” he said. “The team earns the money it needs and the people get a great meal at a low price.”
Tickets, which are available at the door or from any PHS wrestler, are $3 for children, $6 for adults and $20 for a family pass.