The name of the prep game for the Longhorn soccer team is “injuries” — serious ones.
Since the 2009 season tipped off Aug. 28, the team has lost four of its starters to injuries — three of which were broken legs and another a concussion.
The injuries have first-year head coach Chris Avakian scratching his noggin wondering what dark cloud is hovering over the soccer team.
“It’s unbelievable, the number of injuries,” he said. “But all we can do is just play on.”
The players lost to broken legs are Shawn Hilgendorf, Bubba Nielson and Matt Bullard. Goalie Ben Rogers went down with a concussion, but has since rejoined the team.
For Bullard, a senior midfielder, the injury was another case of bad luck considering he was also out last year with an injury.
Neilson was a promising freshman with a bright future and Hilgendorf, a junior, was expected to be a team leader this season.
Without the injured players, the Payson effort could be led the remainder of the season by returning letter-winners Trae Dunman and Omar Guerra who the coach calls “very strong.”
Although the varsity has been shorthanded, Avakian has not yet brought up any players from the junior varsity.
That, however, could all change.
“So far, everybody has picked up the slack, but this week we will be bringing up some players for our tournament and the rest of the season,” said Avakian.
The tournament the coach is referring to is the Payson Invitational to be played today, Sept. 25, and tomorrow on the two Rumsey Park multi-purpose fields.
Eight teams have committed to play, six from the East region, in which Payson plays during the regular season.
They are Holbrook, Round Valley, Snowflake, St. Michael and St. Johns. From outside the East, Verde Valley and Valley Lutheran are entered.
Payson opens four-team pool play at 11 a.m. today against St. Michael, and plays again at 4 p.m. vs. Verde Valley.
The Longhorns return to action at 11 a.m. Saturday against Holbrook.
The results of the first three games will be used to seed the teams into a final shoot-out, set to begin at 2 p.m. tomorrow.
In it, the two No. 1 teams from each pool play one another, as will the No. twos, threes and fours.
The victors in the one and two matchups play at 4 p.m. for the tournament’s top honors. There is no admission charge, and Avakian is urging fans to turn out to support the team, “School, family and local support are very important to the team.”