Sports fans who cheered Chase Walden’s four older brothers and sisters during their playing days at Payson High were surely disappointed when the youngest of the clan left PHS at the end of his sophomore year to transfer to Snowflake High School.
At SHS, Chase — now a senior — has rounded into a three-sport star excelling in football, track and field and basketball.
During a summer football camp, Chase severely injured his knee and at first was expected to be shelved for the entire season.
But defying all soothsayers, Chase returned to the Lobo lineup in mid October just in time to lead Snowflake to a 37-17 upset win over Mingus.
Today, Friday, Nov. 2, in Snowflake, Chase will face off against some of his former Payson classmates and teammates in a state first round playoff game between a 6-4 Longhorn team against the 8-2 Lobos. In power point rankings, Snowflake takes to the tournament a lofty No. 4 seed while Payson advances as No. 13
While Snowflake will be a huge favorite partly because the Lobos manhandled the Longhorns in a preseason scrimmage, PHS first year coach Jake Swartwood contends his team has a chance to pull off the upset of the season.
But to do so, Horn defenders like Tyus Sarnowski, Miguel Mendoza, Steve Perry, Kyle Brown and Tanner Savage must contain the multi-talented Walden who has this year proven to be both a running and passing threat.
Walden could also play on the Lobo defense anchored by sophomore lineman Alex Soloman and senior linebacker Braccin Tanner.
Payson will counter the Lobo “D” with a spread option offense in which quarterback Gunner Goodman pulls the trigger from a shotgun formation often handing off to running backs R.J. Cox and Sam Boatman.
When Goodman goes to the airways, Dean Harpe, Tyus Sarnowski and Miguel Mendoza are his favorite targets.
Following last week’s win over Globe, Swartwood lauded his offensive line for their contributions.
Tonight vs. Snowflake, the linemen — led by Brown — will again have to be at the best for PHS to move the ball and score.
If the Longhorns can somehow sneak into Lobo land, pull off the upset and get out of Dodge, the team will advance to a second round game Nov. 10 against the winner of a tournament opening clash pitting No. 5 Estrella Foothills against No. 12 Empire.