Chartiers Valley wide receiver/cornerback Lamont Payne is committed to Penn State as a cornerback (the top-ranked cornerback in Pennsylvania in the 2023 class, according to Rivals), but he showcased his electric offensive capabilities Friday night against Blackhawk.
Through five games this season, Payne had recorded 11 catches for 111 yards and two scores. Against Blackhawk, on just four plays, Payne racked up 100 yards through the air and three touchdowns.
The first half wasn’t easy for Chartiers Valley, with some offensive inconsistency and unfortunate breaks from officiating leading to a 7-7 halftime tie. However, Payne was able to strike first for the Colts, taking a quick-hitting screen from senior quarterback Anthony Mackey through a couple of Blackhawk defenders and into the end zone.
It wasn’t easy sailing for Payne either, dropping a pass on a 3rd-and-10 slant across the middle of the field, a ball from Mackey bouncing off his hands to the turf. Penalties inflicted CV heavily in the first half, a kickoff return for a touchdown was called back due to a holding call, offsides extended a Blackhawk drive and an unsportsmanlike foul call sent Blackhawk into field goal range.
“We had a lot of issues in the first half, self-inflicted, some things called back, but overall, we’re happy with how the kids responded,” Chartiers Valley head coach Dan Knause said. “A lot of emotions at the half, we calmed it down and we took care of business.”
If Chartiers Valley was stressed at halftime, it didn’t show coming out of the break. The defense clamped down on Blackhawk sophomore quarterback Alex Pritchard, and Payne showcased exactly why he’s one of the top football recruits in Pennsylvania.
“Our coaches told us, ‘keep your composure, do the little things right, and we’re going to win this football game,'” Payne said.
After a key defensive stand to open the second half for Chartiers Valley, the Colts’ first offensive possession worked its way down into the red zone. Mackey looked for Payne on 2nd-and-goal from the 10-yard line, and while he came down with the ball, he was just out of bounds. On the next play, senior wide receiver/safety Abraham Ibrahim found him.
On 3rd-and-goal, Mackey swung a pass out to Ibrahim on a backward pass and Ibrahim slung a ball toward Payne in the end zone. Maybe it wasn’t the best-thrown ball, but Payne came down with it for his second score of the night.
With momentum swung all the way toward Chartiers Valley, another swarming defensive effort left Pritchard on his back on the turf on 3rd down. On the first play after the ensuing punt, Mackey attempted a deep shot that didn’t work. Instead of another, CV ran a play almost identical to Payne’s first touchdown. The game plan was clear, just get Payne the ball. With the ball in his hands, he turned on the burners and raced right by the Blackhawk defense for a 56-yard touchdown down the sideline.
Up 21-7 with time slipping away in the third quarter, Payne quickly turned the game upon its head. As one of the most notable players in the WPIAL, and only a junior this season, a lot of pressure is on Payne simply because he’s a big name. On Friday night, he delivered.
“Lamont is a great young man,” Knause said. “16 years old, that’s a lot of pressure. That’s a lot of pressure on the kids, and he’s handled it with grace and dignity, and we’re proud of him. “He hasn’t been healthy, and he’s never used it as an excuse. He’s been getting taunted by other student sections, and he’s never tapped out. Now he’s getting healthy, and people see what he’s about.”
Payne’s fourth and final touch of the night may not have gone for a fourth score, but it was a 31-yard catch to extend a drive that although it ended with a flukey interception, Mackey’s rocket throw bouncing off a player’s helmet and ricocheting into the air, Payne’s sure hands in clutch situations were on full display late in the fourth quarter.
While the thought of playing major Division I football is certainly a motivator for Payne, a potential gateway to the NFL, his relationship with his family goes hand in hand. Without his family, his father especially, maybe there won’t be NCAA football in the future.
“You know it’s great because, you know, my dad is my biggest critic,” Payne said. “Tells me what I need to do, tells me what I need to work on. Just knowing that he’s there, and my family, to support me is very important.”
And without Mackey throwing him the ball, their bond growing through practice together, their chemistry increasing through repetition so they’re on point for games, maybe the opportunity is tougher.
Regardless, while Payne’s future currently runs through Happy Valley in State College, he’s envisioning a more immediate future first.
A conference championship. And that’s a promise.