COVID-19 turned this high school football season on its head, delaying and shortening it and leading to Payson moving from the 3A East into the 3A Metro East Region.
It wasn’t the kind of season Payson players and coaches hoped for, as they went 2-5 overall and 2-2 in the region.
But it wasn’t without highlights.
And Payson’s talent wasn’t overlooked as 14 Longhorns earned recognition on the All-3A Metro East Team.
Six made the first team, four made the second team and four more were honorable mention in voting by coaches.
Senior Trevor Cline was voted 3A Metro East Player of the Year.
Classmate Soto Sellis (OL) also made the first team, along with juniors Travis Christianson (LB), Mike Dominguez (P) and Hunter Stanfield (DL) and sophomore Dexter Waterman (Def. Utility/Flex). Cline, Dominguez and Sellis were all All-3A East First Team honorees a year ago.
Seniors Troy Daniels (LB) and Dominic Visser (DL), junior Rohan Smith (OL) and sophomore Devonte Johnson (Long Snapper) made the second team.
Seniors Bladimer Benitez (RB) and Cyrus Krieger (DL) and juniors Zach Lutdke (WR/TE) and Kellen Mills (DB) were honorable mention.
Cline was recognized at offensive utility/flex. The quarterback was the Longhorns’ offense this season. He accounted for 47% of their runs and 65% of their rushing yards. He ran for 993 yards on 124 carries, an average of 8.0 yards per carry, and nine touchdowns in the seven-game season. He ran for 367 yards and four TDs against Chandler Valley Christian. He also threw for 515 yards and four TDs this season.
Cline racked up 2,337 rushing yards in three full seasons as the starting quarterback. He also started the final four games of his freshman season but stats were not available.
As a junior, Cline ran for 1,022 yards (6.8 avg.) and 12 TDs and passed for 1,876 and 20 TDs in winning the 3A East Offensive Player of the Year award and earning first team all-state accolades. This year’s all-state team hadn’t been released as of press time.
As a sophomore in 2018, Cline ran for 322 yards on 75 carries (4.3) and five TDs and threw for 1,162 yards and 10 scores.
Cline was also a standout defensive back, recording 37 tackles and a team-leading three interceptions this season.
He hopes to continue his football career at Northern Arizona University.
Sellis was an anchor on an injury-riddled offensive line at left guard.
Christianson led the Longhorns with 53 tackles and two sacks.
Stanfield finished second for Payson in tackles (44). He also blocked two field goals, recovered a fumble and recorded a safety.
Waterman had 26 tackles and an interception that he returned for a touchdown.
Dominguez also played soccer this fall and earned First Team All-2A Central in that sport, as well.
Daniels broke his arm and played several games wearing a cast. He played in six of the seven games and finished third on the team with 42 tackles.
Johnson caught seven passes for 118 yards (16.9) and two touchdowns. He was recognized as a long snapper.
Visser had 13 tackles and 1½ sacks in four games played. He also recovered a fumble and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Smith was a bright spot with his play in three games on the banged up offensive line and had 17 tackles on defense.
Runner-up Valley Christian led all schools with 12 first-team honorees and 21 in all.
Champion Phoenix Arizona College Prep had 19 players recognized, including five on the first team.
Click on this link for the full All-3A Metro East Team.
Click here for the final 3A Metro East standings.