Note: Payson finished with a 4-7 overall record in 2012 and tied for second in Region 12 with 3-2 record. It lost to Desert Hills 48-21 in 3A first round.
PAYSON — Last October, Payson’s football team got a glimpse into the future — and it wasn’t pretty.
Facing Desert Hills in the opening round of the 3A playoffs, Payson struggled to compete and was beaten soundly, 48-21. A year later, Payson has been lumped into the same region as the Southern Utah schools, and unless the program has made the necessary strides in the offseason, similar score lines could be the norm every Friday night.
However, as daunting as facing Hurricane, Desert Hills, Dixie, Pine View, Snow Canyon and Cedar in the new 3AA South region seems, coach Jeremy Chapman genuinely believes his team is up for the challenge.
“I think of all the teams I’ve coached, this is the team I’d want to face that challenge. We have a lot of kids who are tough and competitive. We have a lot of athletes,” said Chapman. “This group of kids is not intimated by the competition.”
The Lions relish the opportunity, and that’s why Chapman is so optimistic. As encouraging as it is to have seven defensive starters and six offensive starters back, Chapman said it’s their love for the game of football that’s more exciting.
When asked about his excitement for the upcoming season, player Kyle Moffat said, “I want to get out and hit some kids.”
“I think it will really help our team overall. Yeah we have to travel a little bit, but it’s only going to make us better playing better teams,” said Moffat.
Moffat in particular is one of the reasons Payson’s fifth-year coach believes his team can compete.
“There won’t be a kid more athletic than Kyle Moffat on the football field in a game we play. He is as explosive as they come,” said Chapman about his three-year starting receiver and defensive back.
Moffat finished with 361 receiving yards and four TDs last year.
Junior receiver Preston Little is also back after leading the team with 529 receiving yards and seven TDs. All of that production came in the final six games of the season after he sat out the first month with a dislocated elbow suffered in week one.
“He’s our most dynamic receiver — big, strong, fast, mean,” said Chapman. “Even if he wasn’t making a play himself, it opened up things for other people just with his size and athleticism.”
It will take a lot more than just good skill position players to succeed down south, and for a change Payson can boast about lineman too.
Incredibly, Payson scored just five rushing touchdowns all of last season, but a veteran line could help improve that troubling trend.
The biggest question mark facing Payson is at quarterback with the graduation of three-year starter Devan Judd.
Sam Reynoso and Easton Smith are the front-runners to win the job. Both saw minimal varsity time last year, and even though both had low completion percentages and threw interceptions, a year of grooming for the job should certainly help.
At the end of the day, Chapman said logistically the new region presents numerous problems, which he hopes are all ironed out by the start of region play. On the field, he expects big things from his team.