The Arizona Interscholastic Association, in a voting of the state’s prep soccer coaches, has honored a foursome of Longhorn standouts from the 2011 season.
Noe Vega, Keith Williams, Guillermo Lopez and Logan Morris were named last week to post-season all-section and all-division teams.
Both Vega and Williams were chosen to the All Division IV first team and to the All-Section III first team.
For PHS, Vega played midfielder and Williams was a defender.
Lopez was chosen to the All-Section III second team, as was Morris. Lopez played midfielder and Morris was a defender.
During the fall soccer season, the four honorees led the Longhorns to a berth in the state semi-final game against a Blue Ridge team that was on a 55-game winning streak, which is believed to the nation’s longest, and had outscored its opponents by a mind-boggling 118-7 margin.
The Yellow Jackets were also ranked No. 1 in the nation by MaxPreps.com and had beaten the Horns twice during the regular season.
Also, the Horns had never scored against the vaunted BR defense, making Payson a huge underdog in the state match.
The Longhorns, however, rose to the occasion, much like Rocky Balboa battling Apollo Creed for the world boxing championship, scoring their first-ever goal against the Jackets on Sam Grassel’s penalty kick.
But like Rocky lost a split decision to Creed, Payson’s goal wasn’t enough as the Jackets won 3-1 and went on to win their third consecutive state title.
The Horns surprisingly advanced to the final four game with a 3-1 upset over highly favored Snowflake and a 1-0 win over Wilcox.
Payson entered the tournament almost as an afterthought, clutching a lowly 12th and final seed while Snowflake was seeded fifth and Wilcox fourth.
The team’s performance in the tournament, which was fueled by the efforts of the four recent honorees, was one of the finest in the history of the sport at PHS. Only the 2002 team that tied Sedona for the state championship rivals it.
Next year’s edition could also be a title contender, mostly because 17 letter-winners return to what coach Chris Avakian predicts could be one of his strongest lineups ever.