Second-year football coach Byron Quinlan has settled on his coaching staff that will lead Payson High’s three teams — freshmen, jayvee and varsity — into their first year of competition in the new division-section configuration rather than the conference-region alignment that had been used for decades.
The Longhorns are aligned in Division 4, Section 3, along with the likes of Camp Verde, Globe, Mingus, Miami and Sedona Red Rock.
On the 10-member assistant coaching staff, four have youth coaching backgrounds, one is a first-year coach who once played for the Longhorns, another is a former Longhorn with junior varsity and freshman coaching experience and two others are retired teacher-coaches.
The big loss on the staff is Bret Morse’s decision not to return as offensive coordinator.
Morse played a huge coaching role on both the 1998 and 2008 PHS state football championship teams and is highly regarded in prep coaching circles.
Because head football coaches often spend as much time off the practice field as on it, Quinlan’s task will be to find an assistant this year he can turn the team reins over to in his absence.
On the varsity staff alongside Quinlan are Jake Swartwood, Shawn McCarthy, Billy Hardt, Logan Garner and Joe Perone.
Also, Dan Reid, who was recently inducted into the Arizona Coaches Association Hall of Fame, has agreed to help out when he has available time.
Swartwood, who coached defensive backs last season at Dakota State University, will work as defensive coordinator.
“I like Jake’s willingness to learn,” said Quinlan
McCarthy, a former starting quarterback at Purdue and a record setting NFL punter for the New England Patriots, will coach special teams and quarterbacks.
“Shawn brings us a ton of experience,” Quinlan said.
Billy Hardt, who enjoyed years of head coaching success with the Payson Raiders of the youth football league, will coach the line as will Logan Garner, a graduated member of the PHS 2008 state championship football team.
Hardt is in his second year as line coach for the Horns.
Perone, a retired teacher and coach from New Jersey, will coach special teams.
On the junior varsity level, Brandan Moore is set to serve as head coach and Miles Huff says he excited to be the defensive coordinator.
Huff was a former two way all-region star for the Horns who played under former coach Jerry Rhoades.
He is currently doing his student teaching at Payson High and will graduate from Northern Arizona University in December.
Gary Chitwood and Heath Wacker, both former middle school and youth league coaches, will head up the freshmen team.
The coaches’ spring into action about 3:45 p.m., Monday, Aug. 1, when after-school preparations for the upcoming season kick off in earnest.
Just last week, the team wrapped up its annual five-day preseason training camp that Quinlan is calling a huge success.
During it, in a series of fund-raisers, the team generated more than $20,000, of which, $14,000 was donated back to other PHS teams and clubs.
Students interested in trying out for any of the three football teams must have their physical exam and all paperwork completed and turned in before they will be allowed to participate.
The season begins Aug. 26 at Chino Valley.