The exodus from Payson to the chilly plains of Madison, S.D. continues.
The latest to wave goodbye to Longhorn land in favor of Dakota State University is Payson High School senior Shane Keith. On May 20 in a PHS classroom, he signed a letter of intent to next year play football for the Trojans, an NAIA school.
Earlier this year, Payson High School head coach Josh Anderson resigned his teaching and coaching position to be the head football coach at DSU.
Also leaving PHS is Anderson’s wife, Stacy, the successful Lady Longhorn basketball coach, and boys basketball coach Kenny Hayes, who will be Josh Anderson’s defensive coordinator at DSU.
The last two seasons, Hayes has been the East Region’s basketball Coach of the Year.
The signing of Keith obviously elates Anderson.
“He is exactly the kind of athlete and person we are going to build our program with,” he said. “Shane has earned everything he’s received as far as athletics and academics.”
Keith was a two-way starter last year for the unbeaten state championship Longhorn football team (14-0), the starting point guard on the PHS basketball squad and an honor student.
In December, at the conclusion of his senior football season, Keith was named as a defensive back to both the All-East Region first team and the 3A All-State first team.
In Hayes’ defensive scheme, Keith manned the free safety position where he defended passes in both the middle and sidelines of the field. He was also a sure tackler in the bandits’ last line of defense.
During the year, he led the team in deflected passes with six, caused one fumble and had 72 total tackles.
Offensively, he manned the tight end position and was the backup quarterback to starter Ridge Halenar.
As a receiver, he hauled in seven passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
In backing up Halenar, he completed two of two passes for 38 yards.
His versatility shined on special teams where he kicked off on eight occasions, had three punt returns and one kickoff return.
One of Keith’s finest games might have been the Longhorns’ 28-7 state semifinal win over Wickenburg in which he was in on 10 tackles. The most memorable moment, however, occurred in the waning moments of the Longhorns’ 13-7 regular season win over the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets.
With the Horns clinging to a narrow six-point lead and Blue Ridge threatening to score what would have been the game-tying touchdown, Keith was aligned in a cover-four defense to guard against a last gasp Yellow Jacket pass attempt.
“The play was kind of like school yard football — (the BR quarterback) scrambled for so long and we were trying to defend deep,” Keith said. “Then he threw the ball and I was able to tip it and three guys went diving for it.”
The last Keith remembers of the pulsating moments is the ball falling harmlessly to the ground “and looking up to see all zeros on the (time) clock.”
His all-around effort against Wickenburg, Blue Ridge and during the entire season draws praise from Hayes. “He is one of the smartest players I’ve ever coached,” he said. “He’s also a hard worker who will have great success at DSU.”
Anderson echoes that prediction.“Shane just made us a better team.” At DSU Keith will join several other Arizona players recruited by Anderson.
They include Winslow wide receiver and kicker Stacey Berg, Coolidge linebacker Eric Lines, Scottsdale Community College wide receiver Eric Farrar and Fountain Hills center Connor Ruppert.
Anderson also has commitments from several Chino Valley High players, a school he coached before arriving in Payson three years ago.
They include quarterback Cole Whisenhunt, linebacker Jess Feichter and linebacker Garret Worster.
The former PHS coach has also drawn recruits from Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and South Dakota.
Keith harbors no doubts about his decision to join the other recruits at DSU.
“I’m going to get a good education and get to compete on the college level in a sport I love,” he said.
He will major in pre-med.
Dakota State University has a student population of more than 2,500 and its 14 teams play in the Dakota Athletic Conference (DAC). Anderson attended the school during his undergraduate years.