Horns Win Title With Perfect Record

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Payson Longhorn soccer player Ben Lee displays fine footwork as he snags the ball away from the opposing team, while Caleb Harrison watches, ready to assist.

A Payson High School boys soccer team that faced a good deal of uncertainty at the onset of the season partly because of a low turnout of only 18 student-athletes, rebounded from adversity Sept. 17-18 to win the Show Low Invitational Tournament championship.

On the way to the title, the Horns amassed a 4-0 record.

Although official records are not kept of tournament championships, the only other crown the Horns are believed to have won, or shared in, occurred in 2002 when Payson, then coached by Roger Wholly, tied a very powerful Sedona team, 0-0, for the 1A-3A state championship.

Mark Hillegas, Travis Sanders, Pat Karlowski and Ryan Peters led that team.

That Longhorn team finished the season 19-3-2.

Alfonzo Munoz and Wholly founded the PHS boys soccer team in 1993 and it has since experienced its share of ups and downs.

At last week’s Show Low tournament, the Horns opened with a 4-3 win over St. Michael and followed it up with a 5-0 victory against Round Valley.

On the second day of the tournament, PHS slipped past the Snowflake Lobos, 3-2.

In the championship finale, Northland Prep was no match for the powerful Horns, falling 6-2.

Noe Vegan and Sam Grassel led the Horns in scoring, but coach Chris Avakian called the victory a team effort.

“During different games, different players stepped up,” he said. “Everyone contributed.”

Although the team scored a whopping 18 goals in the tournament, the coach says it is defense that is the Longhorns’ strong suit.

Next on the Longhorns’ list of challenges is to win the Payson Invitational when it is played today, Sept. 24, and tomorrow at Rumsey Park.

Round Valley, Payson, Verde Valley and St. Michael are participating.

Today, Payson plays at 10 a.m. vs. Verde Valley and again at 3:30 p.m. vs. Round Valley. Both games are on the south field.

Tomorrow, Saturday, Payson plays a 8:30 a.m. vs. St. Michael.

At the conclusion of the round robin, the No. 3 ranked team will play No. 4 and No. 2 takes on No. 1

The No. 3 vs. No. 4 game is at 1 p.m. and No. 1 vs. No. 2 at 3 p.m. Both are on the Rumsey south field.

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