Among the gridiron rituals that traditionally highlight the end of the fall prep season is the naming of all-region, all-state and all-star athletes.
For Payson High School football players, this season’s selection is somewhat of a mixed bag, mostly because figuring out which Longhorns will be chosen is an almost impossible task.
First off, postseason honors usually go to the players on the most successful teams, which will make it tough on those from a Longhorn squad that struggled to a 3-7 mark, 1-4 in the East.
Also, one check of the East Region statistics — which some coaches use in selecting players — reveals there aren’t many eye-popping accomplishments.
Payson’s leading rusher, fullback Nick Johnson, finished with just 435 yards in 92 attempts. Jake Sleeper led the team in passing, but still only completed 24 of 84 passes (28.6 percent) for 281 yards.
Dakota Marshall paced the team in receptions but caught only 11 passes for 213 yards and three touchdowns.
Josh Frewin began the season as a promising young kicker, but had only three field goal attempts and made good on two.
Those types of stats are certainly not going to impress voting coaches in a region where Rathen Ricedorf (Show Low) threw for 1,969 yards, Ammon McKinley (Snowflake) rushed for 848 yards and Josh Weeks (Show Low) caught passes that covered 856 yards.
Among those who could be contenders for the East Region team when it is announced are linemen Mason Dacanay, Schaffer Keith and Logan Garner.
Last season, Garner was named the Arizona All-State first team center. Dacanay and Keith were honorable mention all-state. Garner was also first team all-East and Keith and Dacanay were second team all-region choices.
It reasons that none of the trio have become any worse in the course of the year, so they should be selected again. But coaches voting can be quirky, so no one knows what will occur when the ballots are counted.
Payson Herring is another of Payson’s candidates, but he missed the first few games of the season making it impossible to tell where he will fall in the voting.
In Payson’s 2008 state championship season Herring was all-state honorable mention and second team all-East.
Westin Gibson began 2009 as one of the most talented athletes in the 3A conference, but an injury ended his season prematurely. At the conclusion of last year he was honorable mention 3A all-state and tapped to the all-East second team defense.
He has a tremendous reputation among East coaches, but the games he missed coupled with the Longhorns’ poor season might preclude him from earning honors.
Nick and Max Johnson were also all-region and all-state honorees and could again be candidates. Nick wrapped up the past campaign as the East’s leading tackler with 153 and Max was second totaling 88 takedowns. Nick also has three interceptions to tie for the region lead.
The results of all-East voting will be announced Nov. 28 at the conclusion of the state tournament.
All-state and Arizona Coaches Association All-Stars will be selected a couple of weeks later.