Preparations for the 2010 prep football season kicked off yesterday morning, July 19 at the Longhorn preseason camp on the Payson High School campus.
Three-a-day sessions will continue through Friday.
During the gridiron camp, the athletes reside together in Wilson Dome, along with fellow campers from Casa Grande High School. All bed down on cots, air mattresses and bedrolls they furnish. Meals are being served to all players and coaches in the school’s cafeteria.
During the evening hours, both teams compete in 7-on-7 passing league competitions on PHS field.
The challenge this season for first year head coach Byron Quinlan and his staff will be to rediscover the magic of the 2008 undefeated state championship team that obviously went AWOL on last year’s 3-7 squad.
If this year’s Longhorns bear any similarities to the state title team it will be in offensive and defensive strategies.
Quinlan has called upon former offensive coordinator Bret Morse to re-install the power option offense the 2008 team ran almost to perfection.
However, the personnel will be much different from two years ago and it remains to be seen if the new crew of Longhorns has the talent and moxie to run the power option effectively.
During the summer workouts, Morse has attended some of the practice sessions to teach the nuances of the offense to players who were not varsity team members two years ago.
Defensively, the new team is expected to again use a 43 scheme that former coach Jerry Rhoades first began installing in 2004.
Once again, however, for it to be effective, the Longhorns must have the muscle up front to control the line of scrimmage, the linebackers to fight off blocks and find the ball and the defensive backs to cover both man and in zones.
In addition to Morse being on board at least part time, Quinlan has enlisted the aid of former Longhorn Chris Harold to work with the offensive and defensive linemen.
After starring at PHS in the mid-1990s, Harold went on to play collegiately in New Mexico.
He could be just the coach to mold the “O” and “D” lines into a cohesive unit similar to the 2008 group.
To participate in the current camp, the athletes paid a fee of $50, which is a significant reduction from the last few years when it was $150.
Quinlan said he decided to cut costs of the camp to help the players and their families defray this year’s new participation fees, which now are $200. Last year, the pay-to-play fee was $60.
At the onset of the camp, Quinlan said he was disappointed that only one other team showed up.
“We had some coaches back out, saying their players didn’t have the money,” he said. “I want to make this camp one in which coaches are knocking down the door trying to get in.”
His goal is to attract 4A and 5A schools to the camp, which will give those teams from Phoenix a cooler location to train and provide plenty of stiff competition for the Longhorns.
“Like my dad did in summer league basketball (tournaments) when he used to bring teams like Mountain View and Shadow Mountain up here,” he said.
Quinlan’s father, Jim, is a former PHS boys basketball coach.