MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Ethan Payne won the 2019 Kennedy Award as the top high school football player in West Virginia. The Poca junior running back scored 49 rushing touchdowns and ran for 2,845 yards.
Ethan is however just one half of the dynamic duo that makes up Payne brothers. Toby Payne was Poca’s leading receiver as a sophomore. He caught 35 passes for 786 yards and 13 scores in the regular season. Toby has been a starter since his freshman season.
“Coming in as a freshman and coming off that losing streak, I really didn’t expect it to be honest with you,” Toby Payne said. “It was tough being a freshman and playing against all the big kids. With the older kids, it was different than middle school football.”
After winning just five games from 2012-2017, Poca has gone 19-3 in the last two seasons. The Dots however have won just one playoff game during that run.
“Expectations will be high, like state championship high. We will be about the same team because we only lost a couple seniors.”
The majority of the Poca roster returns in 2020, making them one of the favorites in the very crowded Class AA field. That group includes senior quarterback Jay Cook.
“Me and Jay have been playing together since midget league. We have always been throwing passes and everything. We really got it down this year.”
While Ethan Payne racked up the headlines, the highlights and the hardware as a junior, Toby’s downfield blocking paved the way for many of Ethan’s yards.
“It is true but he won’t admit it though. It is fun but we fight a lot. He is a good football player though. I will give him that.”
It is possible that the Payne brothers could remain teammates at the next level. Ethan and Toby have both been offered scholarships at Marshall.
“I was actually really surprised. I didn’t expect all this recruiting to start this early. But I am really grateful for it.”
Toby was a starter for the Poca basketball team that was just one win away from a second consecutive trip to the state tournament when the pandemic shut down sports for the year.
“That was a big bummer. I was really hoping to make the state tournament. We had a good team.”
For now, the Payne brothers are getting creative with their offseason workouts to gear up for the 2020 season.
“I have a makeshift gym in my garage to work out in. It is good enough.”