It’s unclear exactly how All-Section football teams will be selected this year because the Arizona Interscholastic Association is hosting an online process and Division IV, Section III (of which Payson is a member) coaches are meeting at Fountain Hills High School to select honorees.
The confusion exists because of an AIA realignment this school year that did away with the region-conference configuration and replaced it with section-division.
No matter how the postseason all-star football teams are chosen, it appears Payson has some athletes who are legitimate contenders.
Most often prep teams that finish the year with 4-6 records, 1-5 in the section, as Payson High posted, don’t have many athletes chosen first or second team.
But the Horns boast of several athletes who are among the division leaders and could draw support from voting coaches.
Among them are Aaron Barnes, Chance Randall, Clint Harper and possibly Tanner Savage and Gunner Goodman.
Barnes is a solid contender because he wrapped up the year ranked fifth in rushing among all running backs in Division IV.
In 144 attempts, Barnes picked up 1,079 yards or a 107.9 average per game. He also scored four touchdowns.
Barnes was also Payson High’s Player of the Week following an Aug. 26 win over Chino Valley and again on Oct. 28 after the Horns wrapped up the season with a win at Globe.
Coolidge’s Seth Ellis finished as the division leading running back with 1,918 yards on 169 carries. He also scored an eye-popping 36 TDs.
Other running back candidates for postseason honors are Nick Brown (Florence), Jabril Taylor (Buckeye) and Danny Groebner (Blue Ridge).
Brown, Taylor and Groebner could have the edge in the voting because their teams are still in the state tournament, which will afford them more opportunities for recognition.
Randall, a fullback and linebacker, finished the year as the division’s second-ranked tacklers with 137 takedowns, or an average of 13.7 per game.
He was also a three-time POW selection, having been chosen Sept. 2 vs. Camp Verde, Sept. 23 vs. Show Low, and Oct. 14 vs. River Valley.
The only division player credited with more tackles than Randall the past season was Mingus senior Jordan Westover who had 169 or an average of 15.4 per game.
Harper has a chance to be a defensive selection partly because he wrapped up the campaign as the division’s ninth-ranked defender with 97 tackles, 58 of which were solo.
Both Harper and Randall were also credited with four sacks.
Goodman, who played all over the field at quarterback, defensive back and running back, is ranked 39th in rushing with 445 yards in 72 carries.
It’s difficult to predict how coaches will vote on Savage because he was sidelined with an injury most of the season.
He was, however, a recognized talent as a lineman on both sides of the ball.
Besides all-section and all-division teams being named, the Arizona Football Coaches Association is expected to select the seniors for the annual North vs. South All-Star game.