First-year Longhorn boys basketball coach Bill Goodwin received his first glimpse of his players in action during a controlled scrimmage played Nov. 19 vs. Desert Edge in Wilson Dome.
And he liked what he saw — after a period of time, that is.
“We got better as the quarters went on,” Goodwin said. “We played six quarters and I’m glad we did.”
In preseason scrimmages, rules prohibit keeping of official scores.
What the scrimmage did reveal is that the new coach is facing a challenge molding a team that lost almost all its starters from last season.
“We’ve got a lot to work on, but I was happy with our effort and our hustle,” the coach said.
Goodwin also praised the Goodyear-area school saying, “They were well coached and have good athletes.”
Last year, the Scorpions won the 4A Skyline Region championship, finished first in the Chinle Coca Cola tournament and sent some players to the next level.
In Friday’s scrimmage, a foursome of seniors including Zach Blazer, Justin Moratti, Russell Hintze and Blake Brown led Payson.
Also adding to the effort and expected to contribute this season are juniors Josh Oakley, Cale Novack, T.J. Nottingham, Cole Belcher, Jamie Wadington, Sam Grassel and Cameron Romance.
Rounding out the team are sophomores Tanner Hintze and Guillermo Lopez.
One of those players expected to help shoulder the load this year, sophomore Chase Walden, has transferred to Snowflake and will play for the Lobos.
Last year as a freshman, Walden received extensive varsity playing time when a number of players were sidelined with injuries.
Some in town consider his family’s move a huge loss because he was the Longhorns’ most promising young player both in basketball and football.
Assisting Goodwin this year is varsity assistant Randy Pryor, junior varsity coach Joe Sanchez and freshman coach Ryan St. John.
In the scrimmage and throughout the year, fans can expect to see what Goodwin calls “an exciting offense that is keyed off the defense.” Which means, the team will run or fast break when the opportunity presents itself such as after a turnover or missed shot by an opponent.
“There will be a lot of motion, but not a lot of set plays,” Goodwin said.
The defense will be what the new coach calls “an up tempo man-to-man” scheme with an occasional full court zone press and perhaps a half-court trap.
Around the region, Goodwin expects Round Valley to be the team to beat and also thinks Snowflake will be a title contender, especially with the addition of Walden to the Lobo roster.
The coach also considers Alchesay another tough foe partly because the Falcons play reservation-style break neck basketball with smaller, quick players.
The highlight of Payson’s early season schedule will be the Winslow Tournament Dec. 2 to Dec. 4 and the Bradshaw Mountain Invitational Dec. 27 to Dec. 29.
Last year, the Longhorns won the Winslow Tournament before going into a nosedive mostly due to the rash of injuries.
Goodwin says he will use the two invitationals to fine tune his team, evaluate players and plug the athletes into the positions where they can best help the team.
Once the new year rolls around, the all-important East campaign tips off with teams battling for region supremacy and the right to play in the state tournament. It will begin Feb. 14 to Feb. 18 in Lakeside and continue Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 in Glendale.