A very special addition to Longhorn Stadium will be unveiled at Friday’s season-opening game against Chino Valley.
The team and coach Jake Swartwood would like to encourage everyone to come out and see this new addition — known only as The Rock.
A very large rock, weighing in at five tons and standing 5 feet high and 4 feet wide, was donated by Payson graduate Roy Haught and then placed by crane last week by Payson resident Curt Milam. It was placed on a bed of granite donated by George Randall and Payson Concrete. The granite was put down over a weed mat given by The Home Depot.
The Rock may look out of place near the west end zone, but its meaning and message will make it at home in the hearts of Longhorns old and new as long as it stands, said Swartwood. The Rock is inscribed with the words, “Those who pass by this rock are embedded as family forever. We honor our family that is no longer here.” Another former Longhorn, Angela Taylor Van Horn Godac, sculpted the inscription.
Swartwood said, “Former Longhorn coach Byron Quinlan and I felt that some sort of tradition or message has been needed at Payson High for many years, something that players could relate to and physically see that would remind them of those who came before; the commitment it takes to be a Longhorn player: and lastly the bond that you enter into forever by being a Longhorn.
“For me The Rock takes on a special meaning, it symbolizes fallen coach (and former player) Jack Morris and former Longhorn players like Mike Barr, Greg Davis and Blair River. Those men were Longhorns and knew what it meant to be part of a family like a football team.”
Just before the 7 p.m. game, at 6:45 p.m. a dedication ceremony with the families of those who have been lost will be led by Don Heizer, athletic director for Payson High School.
Chino Valley comes into town Friday, Aug. 24 with newly acquired head coach Chuck Apap. He has coached at Bradshaw Mountain for some time.
Chino Valley houses a very large defensive and offensive line and has some quickness out of the backfield.
“The Cougars are ranked ahead of the Longhorns in most of the statewide rankings, ranging from 13-15. But preseason rankings are only that, preseason rankings,” said Swartwood.
“We are excited to take the field Friday for the first time as a family. We feel that as a team we are more together than ever before. I expect Friday’s game to be full of energy from both sides of the ball.
“The Cougars are a well-coached team and are committed to putting a top-notch product on the field, but so are we, and this is our field,” Swartwood said.
He looks for big things to come from the Horns’ senior leadership during the game.
Gunner Goodman has put in the time and effort all summer and will finally get his chance to shine on Friday night against a formidable defense, the coach said.
Along with Goodman, senior running backs RJ Cox and Sam Boatman will look to lead the Horns, he added. The pair of runners will bring two very different looks to the Horns’ spread offense.
“I also anticipate both sides of the line to play well. The offensive line, anchored four seniors, Zack Tatman, Chimo Vasquez, Kyle Brown and Ty Davis, will leave it all out on the field for the Horns,” Swartwood said.