The Payson Longhorn football team opens the 2011 season this evening, Aug. 26, in Chino Valley against a Cougar team determined on rebounding from last year’s disappointment of not making the regional tournament and buoyed by the return of five offensive starters.
Among the returnees is third-year starting signal-caller Josh Custodio who PHS coach Byron Quinlan anticipates will pull the trigger in a newly spread, fast-paced offense.
The Payson coach believes the Cougars will throw much more from their new “O” than last year when the team aligned in multiple formations.
While the speedy Custodio is said to be improved over last year, the most impressive aspect of the Cougars is their huge, veteran line that includes Anthony Hogan (6 feet, 5 inches; 255 pounds), Ben Heckethorn (6 feet, 2 inches; 280 pounds), Joe Gonzalez (6 feet; 285 pounds), Justin Kraft (6 feet, 2 inches; 315 pounds) and Adolfo Martinez (6 feet, 2 inches; 245 pounds).
“They are huge,” deadpanned Quinlan.
While a line the size of the Arizona Cardinals’ might intimidate some, Quinlan is confident partly because he remembers from his PHS play days in the mid-’90s taking on a Globe team with similar sized players and the Horns manhandling the brutes.
On defense, scouting reports indicate CV plays a base 4-3 anchored by senior linebacker Jake Lund (5 feet, 11 inches; 180 pounds) and junior Kishan Batchlado (5 feet, 11 inches; 215 pounds).
The Horns will counter CV with a power option offense led by junior Gunner Goodman who lacks varsity experience, but seems to have the talent and desire to hold down the position.
The backfield appears to be in good shape with fullbacks Clint Harper and Chance Randall set to both block as well as run traps and dives. At tailback, newcomer Aaron Barnes and Cade Despain are expected to see action.
The jobs of linemen Tanner Davis, Anselmo Vasquez and Ty Davis will be to protect Goodman when he’s throwing and open holes for the backs.
Kickoff this evening is 7 p.m.