The 2013 fall sports season at Payson High School could turn into a bit of déjà vu for longtime fans, spectators and coaches.
The phenomenon of having “already seen” some of the events unfolding will exist because the PHS teams have been realigned into divisions and sections that resemble the former 3A East alignment the school was a member of for decades.
In the 3A East with PHS were Snowflake, Show Low and Blue Ridge, all teams the Longhorns will once again battle for section honors.
In football, Payson and the other three former 3A East teams are aligned in Division IV, Section IV along with Fountain Hills and Globe.
When the Horns play the Lobos, Yellow Jackets and Cougars on three successive Fridays at the end of the season, the games will sound a blast from the past for PHS sports alumni.
The AIA alignment for the 2013-14 seasons means the teams will be playing all the schools in their sections, unlike the past two seasons. The old alignment created a huge boondoggle when it came time at season’s end for coaches to select All-Section teams. Not having seen seen all the teams in their respective divisions, the coaches found it almost impossible to select the best players and name them All-Section.
“How could we vote for a player we had never seen play?” football coach Jake Swartwood asked at the end of the 2012 season.
This season, the football team will play five section games scheduled by the AIA.
The other five contests are considered “freedom games” and were scheduled by the school.
The volleyball team, a member of Division III, Section IV plays nine section matches from Oct. 1 to Oct. 29 then closes with a freedom game on Oct. 30 vs. Chino Valley.
Section IV consists of the three former 3A East schools as well as Fountain Hills, Flagstaff, Coconino, Glendale Cortez and Moon Valley.
The student bodies of the Flagstaff and Valley-area schools are much larger than Payson’s, which could mean they will have a distinct depth advantage over the Lady Horns.
The PHS cross country team probably benefited most from last spring’s reconfiguration.
For the past two years, the girls and boys teams faced the powerful Northern Arizona reservation schools where running is a way of life. Chinle, Monument Valley, Tuba City and Ganado, annually dominate cross country, so Payson runners struggled to qualify for a state berths.
For 2013-14, PHS has been moved out of the reservation-dominated section and into Section III that includes Fountain Hills, Buckeye and Tempe
While those schools will have a pupil population edge over PHS, they traditionally don’t produce the top-notch runners that come off the Hopi and Navajo reservations.