’79 Longhorns Beat St. Johns Three Times

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In the Jan. 6 edition of the Payson Roundup I wrote about the death of former St. Johns basketball coach Veryl Heap.

The 84-year-old Heap died Christmas Eve at his home in St. Johns.

In White Mountain communities, Heap was a legend for his coaching accomplishments, which included a 592-168 won-loss record, 20 region titles, three state championships and a spot in the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

He’ll be remembered as one of the state’s finest coaches.

I knew that during Heap’s tenure with the Redskins, there had been some classic battles against the Payson Longhorns.

But I lived in Show Low at the time Heap was coaching and didn’t know much about the rivalry.

Farrell Hoosava, a member of Payson’s 1979 state championship basketball team, reminded me early this week that the Horns were one of the few teams to give the Redskins fits.

“We beat them three times that year,” he said. “As far as I know, and I’ve heard it spoken somewhere else, we are the only team to have beaten St. Johns more than once during that time.”

Hoosava also remembers that St. Johns played in the Class B North Region and Payson was aligned in the Class B Central.

“One of our wins was in the semifinal round of the state tourney,” he said.

I searched the Roundup archives to find what was written at that time about the two teams.

In the Feb. 28, 1979 edition I came across an article penned by reporter Rick Reynolds.

He wrote, “It was the win over the St. Johns Redskins that put smiles on the faces of the team. Payson won 61-46.”

He went on to quote then-coach Dave Bradley as saying, “We wanted to beat them, there is a pretty big rivalry between the two teams … they knocked us out of the semifinals four years ago and we beat them three times this year.”

The archived paper also contained a picture of the PHS team cutting down the nets in the ASU field house, now known as Wells Fargo Arena. Another picture is of Bradley and the team in old PHS gym being congratulated by Sharkey Baker.

Payson’s victories that year over St. Johns were monumental accomplishments in that Heap-coached Redskins teams were always some of the finest in small-town Arizona.

The Arizona Interscholastic Association honored Payson’s 1979 team in 2004 during halftime ceremonies of a state championship game played in U.S. Airways Center in Phoenix.

Youth hoop

Registration for the third- and fourth-grade youth basketball league will continue until Jan. 30. The league begins play in mid-February in Rim Country Middle School gymnasium. The fee is $25 per player, which includes a reversible team jersey and a basketball.

After the deadline, players will be placed on teams only if space is available. Call the Payson Parks and Recreation Department at (928) 474-5242, ext. 7, for more information.

On guard

Prospective lifeguards interested in employment at Taylor Pool this summer should stop by the park and recreation offices at Green Valley Park to pickup a flier that contains dates, times and places for upcoming American Red Cross lifeguard training, first aid and CPR/AED for the professional rescuer.

It is a 30-hour course designed to teach students the skills and knowledge they need to prevent and respond to aquatic emergencies.

Upon successful competition of the course, students will be Red Cross-certified lifeguards.

Instructors advise registering early because class size is limited.

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