Apr. 13—On one side of the field, Chartiers Valley had a senior three-year starter at cornerback. On the other side was sophomore Lamont Payne.
So, Payne knew he’d be tested.
“Starting as a sophomore is kind of a big deal,” he said. “There’s a lot of pressure on you.”
In that scenario, coaches might ask the senior to shadow the top receiver and move the sophomore around a little to protect him from too many targets. CV coach Dan Knause said that wasn’t needed with Payne.
“We didn’t feel the need to flip them, which is kind of crazy having a sophomore,” said Knause, who started Payne every game on defense last fall. “He predominantly played a side. Going into the season, we might have thought we’d have (West Liberty recruit Jordan Demus) follow people. With Lamont on the other side, we never really had to do that.”
Payne’s highlight was a pick-six against Blackhawk.
At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds with good cover skills and a willingness to hit, college recruiters have taken notice. Three days apart last week, Payne received scholarship offers from Pitt and Penn State.
They joined a list that already included Kent State, Rutgers and West Virginia, where his grandfather William Evans played wide receiver from 1978-81.
All five offers came since Feb. 8. Penn State offered him Thursday.
“I wasn’t expecting Penn State to offer me when they did,” Payne said. “I thought it would be later in my recruitment. When they did, I was kind of shocked.”
Payne has heard from recruiters that like his aggressiveness and his ball skills. He’s an excellent student with a 4.1 GPA, Knause said, which certainly boosts his college stock. Some recruiters have talked about maybe moving him to safety, but he could stick at cornerback as well.
Payne also plays wide receiver. Yet, he’s still somewhat new to the game. Basketball was his preferred sport before trying out for football in eighth grade.
“As a freshman, he was just a wiry kid and we knew that he could be a physical specimen,” Knause said. “He was really raw. He showed flashes on the JV team. His sophomore year, he started every down for us on defense and did some special things.”
Payne played a part in CV’s resurgence last fall. The Colts went 6-2 overall and were one of eight teams to qualify for the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs. Their defense was the key. They held four of seven regular-season opponents to seven points or less.
A first-year starter surrounded by seniors, Payne held his own.
“As a defensive coach, it’s nice to not have to worry about a corner getting isolated on,” Knause said. “We never had that worry.”
Payne has worked with DeWayne Brown and 2/10ths Speed and Agility, a popular training program with a number of WPIAL athletes. Payne said he first learned about his Penn State offer through his trainer.
“I started with him in eighth grade, and he basically molded me into the player I am right now,” Payne said. “He’s had a major role in my transition.”
Payne found out about the Penn State offer after track practice, where he runs the 100, 200 and 4×100 relay.
“I was with all of my friends; it was cool that they were there,” he said. “They were happy for me and cheering me on.”
Payne said he plans to take a patient approach to the recruiting process. As a 2023 graduate, he’ll need to wait more than two years before he can sign with a college.
Before then, Knause expects to see his scholarship list continue to grow.
“There are a lot of transcript requests, but I enjoy endorsing great kids,” said Knause, whose phone has grown busier. “Right before this all started, I had teachers stopping me in the hall to say, ‘I have Lamont in class. He’s one of my favorite kids.’ The character piece is an easy sell.”
Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .