Jackets Sting Cats For Crown

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A pair of Payson High’s rivals from the years the Longhorn football team was aligned in the 3A Conference East region clashed Nov. 26 in Flagstaff with the state championship on the line.

By the time the hoopla died down, seats emptied and the Northern Arizona University scoreboard dimmed, it was the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets who were celebrating their 35-14 win over the defending state champion Show Low Cougars.

Although Payson played Show Low this past season, the Horns did not play Blue Ridge, mostly because the 3A East region was abolished and replaced with a division/section alignment.

In Payson’s regular season game vs. Show Low, which the Cougars won 30-12, Show Low coach Randy Ricedorff made a strategy switch that eventually led the team to its second consecutive appearance in the state title game.

The Cougar coach inserted highly talented wide receiver and BYU-bound Josh Weeks at quarterback to engineer a Wildcat offense.

Weeks responded vs. Payson by running for 158 yards and two touchdowns, which set the stage for him to continue at the signal caller slot and lead SL to the state finale.

In the state title game, however, Weeks wasn’t a huge factor, although he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards to give SL a 7-0 lead.

Most of the game’s accolades went to Blue Ridge junior quarterback Skyler Hill and senior running back Danny Groebner.

Together the pair helped BR rack up 400-plus yards in total offense, 264 which came through the airways.

The Jackets’ win was a payback of sorts for last year’s championship game in which the Cougars beat BR 20-17.

The appearance of BR and SL in the state championship was further proof that the now defunct East region, formerly known as “Beasts of the East” was indeed the most competitive football region in Arizona.

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