Remembering Horn Standout Cade Howell

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Former Payson High School football and baseball standout Cade Howell has died at 33 years of age.

Funeral services will be held 3 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, at the Payson LDS church. A luncheon will follow.

Cade attended PHS from 1993 to 1997 and was one of former Longhorn football coach Dan Dunn’s finest players, holding down positions on both the offensive and defensive lines.

Dunn, whose son Matt was Cade’s best friend, remembers his former player as a boy who loved the outdoors.

“He and Matt would take their two-man tent, a backpack full of military (food) rations and go camping on weekends,” Dunn said. “They loved doing that.”

Dunn also recalls Cade as always willing to pitch in and help out with chores on the Dunn family ranch south of Payson.

Cade, Dunn says, “Is going to be missed.”

Cade’s senior year was cut short by knee injuries he suffered jumping off a cliff at waterwheel on the East Verde River.

Cade and his wife, Jodi (Blalock), had two children.

Cade’s former teachers at PHS and RCMS remember him as an exceptional young man and a good friend to fellow students.

Dunn deal

Former Payson High School football coach Dan Dunn stepped down last fall as Gilbert High’s head coach after three years at the helm of the program.

Dunn was head coach at PHS from 1991 to 1994.

After resigning at Gilbert, Dunn was replaced by LeLand Rodgers, one of his former assistants at Mesa Community College.

In Dunn’s first stint at Gilbert, he led the team to Class 3A state championships in 1973 and 1975, a 4A title in 1978 and state runner-up showings in 1977, 1979 and 1981.

After leaving Payson, he was an assistant coach at Red Mountain with his longtime friend Jimmy Jones. He then returned to Mesa College to resurrect that problem.

After legendary coach Jessie Parker resigned from Gilbert in 2008, Dunn returned to the school where he was 15-18 in three seasons.

While Gilbert was a football power in the ’70s and early ’80s, the program has struggled recently to stay up with the so-called “Big Boys” in the Tempe and Chandler school districts.

Much of Gilbert’s problems can be attributed to declining participation, financial difficulties and a lack of teaching positions at the school for assistant coaches.

In resigning, Dunn told the media that the demands of him being the only on-campus coach was a tough burden to try and overcome.

Sports participation on the rise

A National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) survey shows that sports participation in the 2011-12 school year reached an all-time high of 7,692,520 participants and increased for the 23rd consecutive year.

That’s remarkable considering the financial challenges facing high school sports and the athletes who participate.

At Payson High and others around the country, student-athletes are asked to fork over money for hefty pay-to-play fees and must also foot the bill for extras that once were paid for by school budgets.

The NFHS survey showed that while girls’ participation in sports climbed, boys’ participation was down for the first time since the 1992-93 school year.

Seven of the top 10 boys sports showed drops in numbers. They included football, track and field, basketball, wrestling, tennis, golf and swimming and diving.

Baseball, soccer and cross-country all had increases.

Wrestling continued to rise in popularity among girls, with almost 1,000 more competing in 2011-12 than the previous year.

In boys sports programs, football drew the most participants, followed by track and field, basketball, baseball, soccer and wrestling.

For girls, track and field was the most popular, followed by basketball, volleyball, soccer and fast pitch softball.

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