The painful memories remain — recollections that Payson faithful would like to wipe away.
But as excruciating as they are, the memories continue and one of the few ways to ease them is for the Lady Longhorns softball team (23-3) to emerge victorious today on Payson High field against longtime rival Show Low in a game starting at 6 p.m.
A win would soothe PHS alumni, former players and ex-coaches who survived those frustrating seasons when the Lady Cougars seemed to have a knack for rising up and squashing Payson’s hopes, dreams and aspirations.
• March 2010: The Lady Horns lead Show Low 3-1 going into the top of the seventh inning and need only three outs to whip the Cougars and claim a victory. But in the inning, Show Low rallies for four runs to win 5-3.
• April 2008: Show Low run-rules the Lady Horns 11-0 to drop Payson’s record to 2-4 in the East Region. Payson never recovers and struggles through a listless season.
• March 2008: Show Low edges Payson 10-8 in an East season opener that extends the Lady Horns’ losing streak to three games.
• April 2007: Show Low puts the damper on the Lady Horns’ annual benefit community dinner run-ruling PHS 15-5. While the deep-pit beef meal was scrumptious, the game left a bitter taste in boosters’ mouths.
• Earlier in April 2007: Payson kicks off the East season 5-0, but the streak ends with a 5-0 disheartening loss to the Cougars.
• May 2003: This one is remembered as one of the Lady Horns’ most painful losses. Despite having their pitching ace Rachel Rae on the hill, Payson loses a 1-0 gut-wrencher. Show Low counters with their ace, Bobbi Joe Merrill.
• April 2002: After beating Blue Ridge 6-0, the Lady Horns express derails in a 4-3 loss to Show Low. With the stinging defeat, Payson falls into a tie for first place in the region standings with the Cougars.
• Earlier in April 2002: Ray and Merrill go toe-to-toe for the first time in their careers. Ray would go on to a fabulous collegiate career, but on this night, Show Low survives a 4-3 nail-biter.
It’s obvious, old-timers remember well the seasons when Show Low seemed to have Payson’s number.
But do today’s players realize the history behind the heated rivalry?
Lady Longhorn assistant coach Kadi Tenney, herself a former PHS softball star in the early 1990s, contends they do.
“Even if they are new to the program, they know about the rivalry — if not through other players, then from the coaches,” she said. “It’s a game that’s never taken lightly.”
Head coach Will Dunman agrees, “Oh yes they know about Show Low; it’s a game (in which) we expect them to rise to the occasion.”
Junior catcher Taylor Petersen, the school’s home run record holder whose mother played for the Lady Horns in the 1980s, is sure it’s a team goal to play well against the Cats.
“My mom has told me about them,” she said. “And we all know Carl (Nix, Show Low head coach) so we want to play well ... Show Low is a special game.”
Petersen’s best hope for tonight is, “To have a great turnout and to play well.
“Our goal is to win state, but we play one game at a time, and this is one we want to win now.”
Thankfully for those donned in purple and gold, the beginning of the end of Show Low’s dominance might have ignited earlier this season in Cougar land where the Lady Horns dominated 6-1.
But that was just one PHS victory and the Rim Country’s anxious faithful are clamoring for more Ws.
You see, they’d like to wipe away all those agonizing memories of yesteryear.