The Payson Longhorn marching band won its first “excellent rating” to qualify for the statewide band competition over the weekend and the Longhorn boys soccer team cinched a run at the championship thanks to a 7-3-3 record and jaw-dropping performances in showdown games against Chino Valley and Blue Ridge.
The soccer team’s triumph sets up Thursday’s home game against Camp Verde, the first step in the gritty team’s quest for its first-ever state championship.
The Longhorns will likely have to beat the top-rated team in the nation, but then they already tied Blue Ridge twice this season.
Meanwhile, in Prescott the Payson marching band scored its first “excellent” in team competitions, winning the top award for music, percussion and general effects in the big band battle. The band perfected its gaudy “end of the world” routine, with flags and brilliant formations.
Budget worries forced the top-ranked Longhorn band to limit its entries into the competitions that determine which bands go to the state playoffs (literally). Fortunately, the band racked up an “excellent” rating in two of its three outings.
The band will compete again in Agua Fria on Saturday, then head for the statewide competition the next Saturday.
Meanwhile, the once lightly regarded Longhorn boys soccer team completed a storybook regular season run to set up a long-shot chance to go all the way in the weeks ahead.
Playing the two-time defending state champion Yellow Jackets in the regular season, the Horns stunned everyone with two tie scores — 3-3 and 0-0.
The first tie ended the Lakeside school’s state-record, 57-game winning streak.
On Oct. 13, the very physical Horns pounded out a 2-0 win over a Chino Valley team that came into the game with an 11-0 record and the top ranking in the state.
The Horns’ affinity for running on even terms with the so-called “big dogs” could mean PHS has gotten off the porch and is ready for a fight the likes of which opposing teams have never seen.
The quest to earn the school’s first outright state title begins at 6 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 25 at Rumsey Park against Camp Verde.
Because the clash is an Arizona Interscholastic Association game, no PHS season or staff passes will be accepted for admittance.
Adult tickets are $8 and $6 for students.
Coach Chris Avakian and the players say they are hoping for a huge turnout of supporters to provide the all-important home field advantage.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to showcase our Longhorn boys soccer team in state tournament competition,” said athletic director Don Heizer. “Come out and support our Longhorns.”
If the Horns can derail the Camp Verde express after it steams into Rumsey, PHS advances to the quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 27 against homestanding Alta Vista in Tucson.