The high school football season won’t kick off for Payson until Aug. 27.
But that’s not stopping the Longhorns from staying busy with an eye on the fall this summer.
June is a particularly important month for the team
Players lift weights regularly and also compete every Thursday in three 7-on-7 passing competitions at PHS against teams from Blue Ridge, Show Low, Snowflake, Fountain Hills, Winslow, Phoenix Northwest Christian and Globe.
They also compete in big-man challenges.
Blue Ridge, Show Low and Northwest Christian are expected to be at Payson High this Thursday, June 17 at 4 p.m.
“We’re getting quality reps,” head coach Bryan Burke said of the competitions. “You can only go against ourselves so many times before it gets boring. We’ve had a pretty good turnout, as far as fans and parents.”
Back to normal
It’s different this year as the Longhorns prepare for a full 10-game 2021 season after COVID-19 altered the 2020 campaign.
The Longhorns open the season at home against Chino Valley on Aug. 27. The five-game home schedule also features Tuba City on Sept. 10.
The non-region first half of the 10-game schedule includes away games at Eastmark (Sept. 3; Fountain Hills, Sept. 16; and Chinle, Sept. 24. The Fountain Hills game is on a Thursday and will be televised (more details to follow).
Payson opens the 3A East schedule at home against Round Valley on Oct. 1. The Horns return to the 3A East after competing in the 3A Metro East in the COVID-19-altered 2020 season.
Round Valley joined the 3A East last year but Payson shifted regions. Now they’ll compete with an Elks team that reached the 2A title game three times in four years between 2016-19, winning it all in 2019. That led to the AIA moving Round Valley to 3A.
The schedule also includes defending 3A state champ Snowflake, one of Payson’s biggest rivalries. The Longhorns host the Lobos on Oct. 8. They close the home schedule against another rival, Blue Ridge, on Oct. 29.
The other big rival, Show Low, hosts Payson on Oct. 15 to kick off a two-week period featuring both of the Longhorns’ region road games. They travel to Winslow on Oct. 22.
Colin White stepped down after five seasons as offensive coordinator and assistant softball coach to teach and coach at 5A Scottsdale Saguaro.
“Colin leaving is a big hit for the program,” Burke said. “He’s been a big contributor to our program in a lot of ways.
“But, I’m ecstatic with the coaching staff we have coming in.”
Former Queen Creek, River Valley and Coronado head coach Curt LeBlanc, who has also served as offensive coordinator, including for Payson’s 1998 state championship team, returns to take over as OC. Former Glendale Apollo coach John Hatch also joins the staff, along with 2020 PHS graduate James Watson.
Aaron Rodriguez returns for a third year as defensive coordinator, a role he’ll share with Burke.
Miguel Galindo is back as JV head coach and varsity assistant.
Youth camp June 28-July 1
A four-day youth camp for kindergarten through eighth grade students is set for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 28 through July 1. The cost is $75 per student.
“I’m really excited about my youth camp,” Burke said. “We have 60 kids signed up and we’re going to be getting after it.”
“I’ve done youth camps before but not this format. Usually, it’s a day and limited grades, so this is a big age range and have them a full week all day.”
Email coach Burke for a registration form at email@example.com.