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Note: Payson finished with a 3-7 overall record and was fifth in Region 12 with a 1-4 record in 2011. It did not qualify for the playoffs.
PAYSON — Jeremy Chapman genuinely believed that Payson’s football team was poised for its first winning season in 33 years last season.
It certainly didn’t play out that way though. The Lions struggled out of the gate and never recovered — missing the playoffs entirely.
Just because his team underachieved last year, however, doesn't mean Chapman is about to scale back his expectations in 2012.
In fact, quite the opposite.
“I’d be disappointed if we don’t have a home playoff game,” said Chapman.
He didn’t necessarily feel that way when Payson lost to Delta 40-7 in the regular-season finale last year, but that belief has definitely gotten a facelift ever since.
In the offseason Chapman and his assistant coaches went about redefining what Payson football needed to stand for. They established three core values: discipline, dedication and tenacity. They challenged their players to apply these values on and off the football field.
“We presented it to the kids and they bought in fantastically, and because of that I’m excited,” said Chapman.
The shift in attitude along with several key returning starters makes Payson a very intriguing team this season.
It starts at quarterback. Senior Devan Judd has been Payson’s starter since midway through his sophomore year and he’s poised for a big senior season.
“When we give him time he’s proven he’ll eat teams up,” said Chapman.
As a junior last season, Judd passed for 2,893 yards and 20 touchdowns, even though he was very mistake prone with 21 interceptions. With an extra year under his belt and a better understanding of Payson’s spread offense, he’s hoping for much better things.
“I feel really comfortable with it. I’m just working on the timing with the receivers and once we get that down I think we’ll be really solid,” said Judd, who maintains a 4.0 GPA.
Most of Payson’s skill-position players saw limited action last year, but Chapman likes their potential.
Defensively, Payson is getting a big overhaul. In a region that features almost exclusively running teams, not to mention a preseason schedule with the same mix of opponents, Chapman believes it was important to change the Lions’ schemes.
“Everything we’ve done this offseason through weight lifting and drills has been about getting bigger and stronger just to defend the run,” said Chapman.
In that season-ending disaster against Delta, Payson’s porous run defense surrendered 349 rushing yards.
If the Lions have any hope of closing the gap in Region 12 and competing for a playoff spot, it’s imperative they shore up that run defense. They’ll get tested right out of the gate as they open the season on Aug. 17 against 5A school Granger.
In last year’s season-opener, Granger thrashed Payson 43-19 by rushing for over 300 yards.
Payson Lions at a glance
Coach: Jeremy Chapman is entering is fourth season as head coach at his alma mater. He’s amassed a record of 12-18 in those three seasons.