By T. Scott Boatright
There’s nothing a football coach loves much more than explosive plays.
Offense, defense or special teams — it doesn’t matter. Explosive plays often lead to wins, and that’s what makes senior Dmitry Payne so special to Lincoln Preparatory School head football coach Glen Hall.
“I just call him ‘Dynamite,’ ” Hall said about Payne. “If you kick it off to him and let him receive it, he’s going to score it. Right now, and I keep up with high school football and college football, he’s one of the most dangerous guys in the area, period, right now.”
In Lincoln Prep’s 44-6 season-opening win at Beekman Charter, the 5-11, 160-pounder caught four touchdown passes and had a little more than 300 yards receiving.
During the Panthers week 3 loss at Glenbrook, Payne had an 80-yard scoop and score in loss at Glenbrook.
Payne provided all of the Panthers’ points in a loss at Calvary Baptist as he first hit paydirt on a 109-yard interception return by Dmitry Payne, who picked the ball off in the back of the end zone and outraced everyone else to paydirt to put the Panthers up 6-0 less than three minutes into the contest. Payne also provided Lincoln Prep’s other score in big-play fashion as he raced a kickoff return back 87 yards to paydirt.
Then last week, in a 44-27 win at Lakeside, Payne raced 65 yards to paydirt to push the Lincoln Prep lead to 25-7 on the kickoff opening the second half.
“He doesn’t hesitate,” Hall said about Payne. “He hits it and he’s gone. They tell every kick returner they’ve got to get up in there. You don’t see that happening very often anymore. But he doesn’t wait for it. He fires up in there and he’s gone.”
Payne, who didn’t play football last year while focusing on basketball, first showed his gridiron abilities as a sophomore defensive back for the Panthers.
“He’s a leader on the basketball court,” Hall said. “He’s a leader for our football team. Two years ago he was an All District defensive back. This is not his first rodeo when it comes to football.
Payne said his decision to sit out last football season was all about timing. And his return to the gridiron was much about his father.
“COVID was around and I just felt like focusing on basketball at that point,” Payne said.”I like both football and basketball the same. I just like playing … competing … with myself and with others.
“Football was in me because of my dad, Derrick Payne, played for the Ruston Bearcats and was a star as a fullback,” Payne said. “He’s part of the reason I started back to playing football. We talked and decided to give myself the best and most opportunities. If I don’t get a chance for basketball, maybe I can for football. I just took his advice and went back to football.”
Hall believes Payne’s hoops skills have translated to the football field.
“I think it’s in his hips — he has great hips,” Hall said of Payne’s escapeability when carrying the football. “He has that instant explosiveness. In basketball you have to explode ‘right now.’ In football you have to ‘explode right now,’ but it has to be a continuous explosion. He’s put it together and is doing a good job for us.”
Payne has also become a crucial factor running and catching for the Panthers this season.
“I like playing offense better,” Payne said. “My sophomore year I played nothing but defense and I loved it. I led 1A in tackles my sophomore year until I got hurt. But since I’ve come back I think I like offense better.”
Lincoln Prep’s 4-2 start has been because of Payne and other Panthers like quarterback Ta’Rell Simmons, who ran for 153 yards and two touchdowns while connecting on nine-of-13 pass attempts for 227 yards and another four scores during last week’s win at Lakeside.
“That’s my brother. We have a mental bond,” Payne said of his connection with Simmons. We’re not blood, but we’re like that. We stay with each other and everything. We’ve got a bond with each other.”
Payne said his vision in finding blocking lanes wasn’t necessarily something he learned.
“It just came naturally,” Payne said. “I get the ball and I just scan and find the lane. It really is just natural.”
He also continues working to better himself as a player.
“I need to work on my route running, but it’s my speed that makes me good,” Payne said. “I love the offense. Ta’Rell scrambles and gives us time to find a way to get open.”
Payne admits he’d like staying on the gridiron on the collegiate level.
“I think some schools might be looking at me for football,” Payne said. “I don’t know about basketball right now. Because of my height, I’m probably built better for football and am thinking about going that direction.”
But for now, he’s more focused on team goals than individual accolades.
“We have a chance to really go to state. We have a chance,” Payne said. “Two years ago we had a chance but everybody just kind of quit on us. But right now, it’s different. I’ve asked the other basketball players to come play football. And they came and liked it. Everybody just cliqued up and we keep getting tighter and tighter and better and better.”
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