First-year Payson High School Athletic Director Don Heizer is just now settling into his new office, but the process of moving from his previous spaces as a PHS counselor and history teacher has yielded some interesting finds.
“I have scorebooks from as far back as the 1950s,” Heizer said.
Among the most interesting scorebooks he’s found is the original one for the Payson High School boys basketball team’s Class B State Championship 49-48 win over Williams in 1979.
The championship finale was played in what was then called Arizona State University Activities Center, but is now known as Wells Fargo Arena.
The scorebook reveals the highly talented Williams Vikings team, which was led by Billy Hatcher, got off to an early 13-10 lead over the Longhorns.
If the name Billy Hatcher sounds a bit familiar to you sports buffs, it should.
After graduating from Williams High in 1979, Hatcher was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and played only one season in the minors before being called up to the “Bigs.”
After playing left and centerfield for the Cubs he went on to play for the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates, Boston Red Sox and other teams. He also coached first base for the Devil Rays and now coaches for the Cincinnati Reds.
But enough about Hatcher — back to the scorebook.
It reveals that in the second quarter the Horns erased Williams’ early lead to take a 29-27 cushion into halftime.
The book has a notation that seems to indicate Beau Bobier sank a 65-foot desperation shot as part of his six-point second stanza contribution.
Today, the shot would have been worth three points, but in 1979 there was no 19-foot-9-inch arc.
At the end of the third quarter, the score sheet shows Williams had taken a 39-37 lead, which apparently set up a wild and wooly fourth quarter.
In it, the Horns outscored the Vikings 12-9 to win the school’s only state basketball championship.
In the fourth quarter rally, Bobier scored 16 points and Jeff Pettet hit two free throws, which, if what I’ve been told over the years is accurate, were the winning points.
Bobier finished as high point scorer with 16 points and Pettet contributed 14.
Mike Kindred had eight points.
For Williams, Hatcher took high game scoring honors with 21 points.
Ironically, the Williams’ score sheet includes the name “Fruth.”
After that season, Tom Fruth and his family moved to Payson where the teen became one of the finest football running backs in the state.
His football jersey number was eventually retired and now hangs in Wilson Dome.
Almost as ironic as having a former Horn opponent eventually star for PHS was the circumstances surrounding the “Gold Ball” state championship trophy the Horns were awarded following the state win over the Vikings.
About 25 years later, the trophy disappeared from the school trophy case and was found just last year in an abandoned Phoenix apartment.
The finders knew current Grand Canyon University wrestling coaches Larry Wilbanks and R.C. LaHaye were PHS alumni, so delivered the weathered old trophy to them.
Wilbanks and LaHaye eventually got the trophy to Heizer, who made sure it was refurbished and locked away in a school trophy case.
Just how the trophy disappeared for so many years remains a mystery, but Heizer says he’s happy its back and now enjoys mulling over the old scorebooks, “It’s pretty cool, especially for a history teacher.”