Josh Anderson has resigned as head coach of the Payson Longhorns, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be coaching in the Arizona Football Coaches Association 1A-3A North vs. South All-Star game.
Anderson says he has cleared it with his new employers, Dakota State University, to return to Arizona in early June to coach the North team.
The celestial clash will be played at 7 p.m., June 12 in Surprise Stadium, the spring training home of the Texas Rangers.
Anderson has previously served as an assistant coach in the stars game, but this year he will be the head coach.
On his team will be 32 of the finest football players from small towns in Arizona. By rule, all those chosen in a voting of coaches must be graduating seniors.
Among this year’s contingent of North stars are four members of Payson High’s 2008 state championship team. They are Bryan Burke, David Carlen, Matt Wilson and Ridge Halenar.
Having four players selected to the elite squad is a boon for the Longhorns. Only two other times have the Horns had four selected — at the conclusions of the 1986 and 1998 seasons.
The Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets, state runners-up to Payson, also had four chosen — Dustin Simmons, Griffen Strum, Nathan Schimmel and former Payson High student Steel Armstrong.
Also on the team is St. John’s Shad Bride, Arizona’s Small School Player of the Year.
Bride is bound for Northern Arizona University where he will join Wilson who has also committed to play for the Lumberjacks.
At the conclusion of last season, Halenar was named the 3A Offensive Player of the Year for leading the Horns to the state crown.
Through the airways he completed 77 of 133 passes for 1,217 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
On the ground, he racked up 743 yards and 10 touchdowns in 94 carries.
Halenar was at his best in the state championship game when he rallied the Longhorns from a 20-0 halftime deficit to a double-overtime victory.
Among Burke’s (6 feet, 5 inches; 220 pounds) and Wilson’s (6 feet, 6 inches; 256 pounds) boatload of gridiron laurels was their selection as co-players of the year by the statewide sports Web site arizonasports-network.com.
Both were three-year varsity starters for the Longhorns who played on both sides of the ball as defensive ends and offensive tackles.
As tackles, the dynamic duo paved the way for the state’s finest ground attack that included 1,000-plus-yard-rusher David Carlen and Brandon Alexander, who ran for 1,051 yards.
In the Horns’ perfect 14-0 state championship season, Wilson and Burke helped Payson’s power option offense carve out 4,311 yards on the ground and 1,299 through the airways.
Defensively, Wilson finished with 89 total tackles, 35 of which were unassisted, four sacks for 30 yards in losses, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Burke had 80 tackles, seven sacks for 54 yards in losses and one fumble recovery.
Carlen, who started at middle linebacker and fullback for the Longhorns, was earlier named to the All-East and All-State first teams.
During the season he led the Horns in tackles and rushing and was widely considered one of the most hard-nosed players in the 3A ranks.
Carlen is bound for a midwestern college where he will continue his football career.