As far as the rest of Arizona goes, Week 4 of the 2007 high school football season was little more than a footnote. Special games rarely occur in mid September. Moments that touch the history of traditional football programs are even rarer.
And Bradshaw Mountain beating Prescott ... was starting to look like the rarest of all.
By September 2007, it had been 10 years - almost to the day - since the eternally smaller and younger Bradshaw Mountain football program had beaten the Prescott Badgers, their oppressive rivals separated by mere miles on a map but by so much more in equatability. The divide on the gridiron was so great, in fact, that the slighted competition called into question the series' very status as a rivalry. While the faithful nations of two neighboring towns analyzed, scrutinized and lionized all that is Prescott-Bradshaw, the Badgers had won 13 of 14 meetings in the series, including 10 straight. The Badgers had won the previous six head-to-head games by an average margin of victory of 15.5 points, or better than two touchdowns.
But as their Bear brethren had done 10 years earlier on the same turf at Bill Shepard Field, Bradshaw Mountain stood just enough taller in 2007. The defense came up with a stuff on the last Prescott drive of regulation, same as it had in 1997. The offense had just enough oomph to pull out a one-point win, same as it had in 1997. As a result of the fateful fallout, a determined Prescott team won seven of its next eight, and an energized Bradshaw club won five of its next six.
Perhaps September's result was the turning point for both teams in 2007. Maybe. But the divide between two programs so enduringly conjoined shrank for one night nonetheless, by a mere point after two overtimes.
Welcome to the Family
Big Brother is indeed always watching, and his view is much better at only 90 miles away.
On the last day of August 2007, the Phoenix Coyotes announced that they'd joined forces with Prescott Valley's double-A hockey team, the Sundogs. The impact was immediate.
Coyotes prospects Tyler Redenbach, Alex Leavitt and Olivier Latendresse peppered the punch for Arizona which has emerged as the highest scoring CHL team this season. That means a faster style of play. That means a product with a brand name. The Sundogs rank fifth in CHL attendance, up from eighth last season.
The express lane to the NHL widened that much more for players sharpening their skates in Prescott Valley. Opposing goaltenders know it. Hoarse fans know it. The CHL knows it, with the Sundogs first in their division after the season's first half.
Head of the Class
A bridesmaid the year before at nationals, Hayden Harrison of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University reached wrestling's summit in March of this year.
One year after placing second, "Hurricane" Harrison won the 2007 NAIA national championship in the 157-pound weight class. He brought home the Eagles' first national title in five years, and it was a doozie.
The junior went three rounds with David Clemens out of Campbellsville (Ky.), snaring the nation's elusive top title with a five-point win. Leaving everything on the mat in Sioux City, Iowa, it was anything but easy for Harrison. "My lungs," he copped after the backbreaking bout, "were burning fire flames."
Harrison's bearing the burden also catapulted Embry-Riddle to a second-place finish at the national tournament; the program's highest placing ever. Now a junior, Harrison is an aeronautical science major with his eye on repeating.
Mr. 3,000 at the Track
The decade of disco was winding down and Jimmy Carter was in the White House when jockey Vince Guerra won his first career race at the old Prescott Downs.
More than 2 1/2 decades later, with Yavapai Downs now located in Prescott Valley, Guerra reached a milestone in his long and storied career by recording his 3,000th career victory. With age 50 only a couple of years away, Guerra is still going strong at the race track.
Just one year earlier, Guerra's career took a bad spill when he suffered a torn rotator cuff on the Downs' opening day. He missed the whole season while recuperating from surgery.
But he returned strong in 2007. Not only did Guerra record No. 3,000 in June, he rode away with the jockey title by winning one-fourth of all his races.
"I don't know how to retire," Guerra said. "I'm just having fun right now."
A World of Payne
It started as a club on the Prescott campus at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Dan Payne "hung around the Fitness Center," remembered Athletic Director Larry Stephan, looking for brutes he could mold into wrestlers. Fourteen years after establishing the men's wrestling program at ERAU, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics saluted Payne's dedication at the national level by enshrining him into its Hall of Fame this past March.
Payne's brag sheet reads like a virtual handbook for collegiate wrestling coaching: 6 NAIA national champions, 44 All-Americans, NAIA Wrestling Coaches Association president. He recruited more than 250 wrestlers to the Prescott campus during his tenure from 1987-2001 and left his mark on the aviation school's athletic lifeblood. Without Payne, said John Petty who succeeded the program founder when Payne stepped down, "I don't think they would have a sports program at all."
The Littlest Big Stage
For a couple of weeks in July, the baseball world shares its spotlight with a mighty field in Williamsport, Pa. Founded in 1939, Little League Baseball has woven its fabric into the texture of American culture, introducing countless future prospects to their first pair of cleats and proving each summer that the game is indeed a family affair. But only the best of the best get to the World Series in Williamsport.
In 2007, that road traveled for the first time ever through Prescott which hosted its first State tournament to yield a champion.
Saving a Program
There once was a time when the Prescott High School football program was short on tradition. Its glory years came before the Titanic sank and just after Pearl Harbor. Then came the drought. Five winning records in 32 years. Teetering on the verge of prep football extinction, the Badgers needed a boss. Enter Bill Gahn. During his tenure from 1979-95, Gahn posted a 113-69-6 record with 17 playoff appearances. He left with more wins than his four predecessors combined and with the Prescott football program re-established - for good.
In May, the Arizona Coaches Association enshrined the Badger boss into its Hall of Fame.
A League of Her Own
A defensive steal at midcourt and a fast-break layup on offense: leave it to the best player in program history to reach a milestone using both ends of the floor.
Senior Marianne Bean re-wrote the record books during her varsity basketball career at Bradshaw Mountain High School, saving the final, definitive chapter for this past January. Bean scored 24 points in a two-point loss to Sunnyslope to become the girls' program all-time career scoring leader. She moved into the top spot she now claims with an even 1,600 points, and did so in front of the home crowd, handing her mom the game ball.
Stronger Than Ever
The year's best comeback story came in November. Prescott High School distance runner Ben Schild put a crippling injury behind him with his second individual State championship in three years.
Schild broke onto the running scene by winning the Arizona Interscholastic Association's cross country championship as a sophomore. With so much promise ahead, the underclassman was the favorite to repeat. A fractured leg cost him a second straight title but maximized his mettle. Schild's 108th place finish on a broken leg as a junior seemed almost as impassioned, until his encore this year. A healed Schild won a second cross country State title in the fall.