Panthers place five on all-district team

By T. Scott Boatright 

D’Mitry Payne did everything but serve as a referee while selling popcorn during Lincoln Preparatory School football games this past season.

So it’s fitting that Payne earned three separate spots on the All-District 1-1A team selected by head coaches of teams in the league.

He earned first-team All 1-1A accolades as a receiver and return specialist while also being selected to the all-district second team as a defensive back.

Payne wasn’t the only Panther earning multiple honors on this year’s All District 1-1A football team. Senior lineman Imani Marcel earned first team accolades on offense as well as second team defensive honors while senior Ta’Rell was a first-team athlete on offense and a second team defensive back on the other side of the ball.

One other Panther — senior linebacker Emmanuel Bryant earned a second team spot on the All-District 1-1A football team.

Payne accounted for 2,482 total yards and 23 touchdowns on 98 touches. That’s a staggering 25.3 yards every time he touched the ball.

The 5-11, 160-pounder hauled in 58 passes for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns, returned 27 kickoffs for 1,231 yards and another seven TDs while adding 231 rushing yards and seven more scores on only 13 carries.

“Meci (Payne) is a threat to score any time he touches the ball,” said Lincoln Prep head coach Glen Hall. “He’s one of the more exciting and explosive players I’ve ever coached. The moves and cuts he makes, and that burst and ability he has with his speed that allows him to blow past anyone trying to catch is really something special. Something rare. I believe he’s one of the top potential college kick returners in the country. He certainly proved that on the high school level.”

Hall said he believes Payne’s defensive skills could transfer to the next level also.

“Payne is a shut-down corner,” Hall said. “I used him at cornerback as a sophomore and he was doing great until a shoulder injury shut him down for the last four games. He scored enough times on returns this season (eight) where someone should want him to do that. If it was me I would sign him as a returner and let him play cornerback, too. He’s already defined as a cornerback and knows things like the ‘step and slide,’ he knows the ‘mirror motor,’ he knows everything that most college guys are just starting to get on that level.”

Marcel, a 6-3 steamroller weighing in the neighborhood of 400 pounds, dominated on both sides of the ball but Hall expects the big man to play offensive guard on the collegiate level.

“He’s primarily a guard, but one of his biggest things is his versatility,” Hall said of his big O-lineman. “When he needed him to play center this season because of injury and illness, he didn’t miss a beat, so we didn’t either. He has great feet and strength. He’s a great snapper who does a good job with both the quarterback under center and in the shotgun and on punts. And that strength allows him to overpower most people. It’s that combination of size, speed and strength that makes him special.” 

The 6-1, 160-pound Simmons connected on 93-of-165 pass attempts for 1,301 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions while adding 971 rushing yards and 13 scores on 102 carries.

“Taz’s (Simmons) thing is that he really wanted to continue playing receiver this past season at quarterback, but I needed him to be our quarterback,” said Hall. “So he stepped into that role without a complaint. With him, it’s team first.

“And he was important for us in the defensive backfield as he was in the offensive backfield. He deserves those defensive honors as much as he does the first-team selection on offense.”

Bryant came off the basketball court to try the gridiron for his senior season and turned out to be a force in the middle for Lincoln Prep’s defense.

“He came out and played incredibly for us, and for him, it was all new,” Hall said about Bryant. “He had never played a real, regular season organized football game before this season. And he tore it up.”

Calvary quarterback Landry Lyddy earned District 1-1A Offensive MVP honors and Calvary Baptist defensive lineman Denham Smith is the Defensive MVP while Calvary’s Rodney Guin and Homer’s Richie Casey shared Coach of the Year accolades.

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