While the 2012 season has wrapped up for some soccer players around Arizona, PHS team members are reveling in attaining their preseason goal of qualifying for the state tournament and extending their season for possibly another four weeks.
Yesterday, Oct. 22, Coach Chris Avakian and his players learned the team will be advancing to the 16-team Division IV state tournament as a No. 5 seed.
The Horns open play 6 p.m. Oct. 25 at Rumsey Park against No. 12 Camp Verde.
If the Horns win, the team would advance to a quarterfinal game at 2 p.m. Oct. 26 vs. Alta Vista at Alta Vista High School in Tucson.
A win over the Tucson school would catapult the Horns into a semifinal game Nov. 2 at Campo Verde High School in Gilbert, probably against No. 1 Desert Christian.
Reaching the semifinals would be nothing new for the Longhorns since the team last year advanced to the final four before being eliminated by eventual state champion Blue Ridge.
The state championship game will be played at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 3 at Campo Verde.
The state first-round game on Thursday that pits Payson vs. Camp Verde will mark the third meeting of the two teams this year.
In regular season play on Sept. 25 at Rumsey Park, the Horns prevailed 3-0.
On Oct. 4 at Camp Verde, Payson won again 3-0.
The twin wins stamp the Horns favorites to emerge victorious in the state opener and advance in the tournament. It, however, is a postseason game and history has proven underdogs often rise up and bite favorites in the rear.
Which means Payson players — including stalwarts Noe Vega, Logan Morris, Richard Nielson, Kaylan Hinton and others — need to put the favorites title away and focus only on beating what is sure to be a fired up Camp Verde team.
Other games in the first round of playoffs:
• No. 7 Snowflake vs. No. 10 Show Low
• No. 6 Phoenix Country Day vs. No. 11 Round Valley
• No. 8 Benson vs. No. 9 Wilcox
Desert Christian (No. 1), Blue Ridge (No. 2), Chino Valley (No. 3) and Alta Vista (No. 4) all received first-round byes and will not play until Oct. 27.