Teays Physical Therapy Center, Inc. and The Putnam Herald are pleased to present this week’s Male Gamer of the Week to seniors Dillon Taylor and Ethan Payne of the Poca High School football team.
Much has been made over the past couple of years about the resurgence of Poca football. From going from zero wins a few short years ago to becoming a real contender at the AA level, Poca has flipped the narrative on what its football program can be. A large part of that turnaround is due to a 2020-2021 senior class that includes 2019 Kennedy Award winning running back Ethan Payne and hard-nosed defensive stalwart Dillon Taylor.
The two picked up where they left off in the Dots’ season-opening victory against Wheeling Central Catholic on Sept. 5. The Dots dominated the game and took home the 34-6 victory on the shoulders of Payne’s offensive output of 27 rushes for 209 yards and 3 TD’s and 2 catches for 34 yards and 1 TD and Taylor’s defensive prowess contributing 17 tackles from the Linebacker spot to go along with 3 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, and added a receiving TD on offense out of the fullback position.
Coach Seth Ramsey commented that Wheeling Central Catholic is one of the better-coached teams in the state and that a victory over them in this fashion does a lot for the team’s confidence moving forward in the year.
“Ethan and Dillon were huge for us on both sides of the ball. Each took a little pressure off the other side and freed everyone up to just play and do the things we’ve worked on,” Ramsey said.
Payne noted that, while the victory was big, there were still things to improve upon.
“We could tell that our conditioning wasn’t where it needed to be yet. With the shortened offseason and trying to prepare for these games at uncertain times, it made it a little more difficult, but that’s just something we will need to get better at.”
Taylor also noted that he thought the team played well for the most part.
“I thought, all things considered, we played really well,” he said. “There were some nerves at the beginning, but I thought we banded together and played really well as a whole.”
In the offseason, both guys focused on improving aspects of their game. Taylor focused on speed to go along with his strength.
“I really worked on my footwork and trying to get a little faster so that I could be ready to play at the next level,” Taylor said.
Payne said he also wanted to add aspects to his game for college football.
“I’ve been trying to add speed and maintain what I have in that area, while also adding muscle and bulking up a little bit,” he said. “I’ve added about 10 pounds of muscle so far and have a little more that I want to add before next year.”
Both boys raved about the feeling of actually being able to get on the field and play.
Taylor stated, “Wheeling Central is a good team as you know, so it took our complete attention and focus to win. But more than that, we were just itching to actually play a game. It was a great feeling.”
Payne added, “It felt amazing. We haven’t been able to play sports in a while, so I’ve really missed that feeling.”
With the uncertainty surrounding the schedule, each of the guys expressed desires to make it even further in the state tournament this year knowing it will be their last.
“We want to win a state championship,” Payne said. “Our season ended earlier than we wanted it to last year, so we want to play a little longer if we are able this year.”
Both Payne and Taylor are involved in other sports at Poca (basketball and baseball for Payne, wrestling for Taylor) and are excited for their senior seasons representing the Dots. Payne will attend Marshall University next year to play football and study criminology. Taylor is still weighing his options and figuring out what will be the best avenue for him.
Please look for other local high school athletes to be named in next week’s male Gamer of the Week Sponsored by Teays Physical Therapy Center, Inc. and The Putnam Herald.