Fall prep sports seasons kick off in the Dog Days of August with teenagers sweating through demanding two-a-days and dreaming their hard work will ultimately lead to every young athlete’s dream — an invitation to play in a state tournament.
For some, their aspirations are not realized, but for others — the ones with the strong work ethic, character and resolve — the goals come true with ducats to the prep version of the Big Dance.
At Payson High School, three teams — football, volleyball and boys soccer — are preparing for the postseason with hopes of playing deep into the playoffs.
In cross country, a pair of gutsy runners — freshman Abby Greenleaf and sophomore Erin Huffman — will head to state knowing they will be competing against older, more experienced juniors and seniors.
Nonetheless, the determined efforts of the duo all season long have shown they have the talent to compete well, even on the largest of the state’s stages.
The football team travels Nov. 2 to play Snowflake in the Lobos’ home den.
The Horns will be the underdogs to the higher seeded Lobos, but coach Jake Swartwood and his players expressed their confidence early in the practice week they would be stoked and ready to play.
The volleyball team opens pursuit of PHS’s first state title at 2 p.m. against Blue Ridge at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
Finally, the boys soccer team will try to break into the big time with a win 7 p.m. Nov. 2 at Campo Verde High School over No. 1 Desert Christian.
Some call state tournaments second seasons, but for student athletes who have practiced long and hard for months balancing athletics and academics, they are the weeks dreams can finally be realized.