Virginia Tech signee Jaden Payoute has played on some talented teams in his life. The L.C. Bird football team won nine games last year, and the track and field squad has claimed the past two Class 5 state championships.
But the best team Payoute has ever played on? It might have been his seventh grade recreational team, the Chesterfield Giants. Its roster included two other future Division I recruits, Manchester’s Hakeem Beamon (Penn State) and Matoaca’s Immanuel Hickman (East Carolina).
There was a future Division I basketball player, Jamon Battle, and a pair of future Division II players, Mykey Anderson (U.Va.-Wise) and Xavier Addison (Virginia State). Two others would go on to be two of Manchester’s top players: Collin Harding and K.J. McNeil.
“I feel blessed,” said Donte Henderson, who was the team’s coach. “It was an honor to coach those guys.”
Together, the group won two championships in the Virginia Youth Football League. In 2012, when they claimed their first title, they were known as the Chesterfield Ravens. A year later, they became the Chesterfield Giants, won their second league championship, advanced to the region tournament and won that, too.
Payoute was the quarterback and linebacker, but he’ll play wide receiver for the Hokies. Battle was a defensive end, wide receiver and backup quarterback. Even then, Beamon, who’s 6-foot-5 now, towered over the other players. There were plenty of guys who could have been stars on the team, but they and their parents bought into their roles, the coach said.
“I knew we had talent, but to see everybody stick together and actually grow and get scholarships to play football, it makes me feel like everything we did and everything we put them through was all worth it,” Henderson said.
-- Another local player committed to East Carolina, Thomas Dale's Rick D'Abreu. He joins Matoaca's Immanuel Hickman and Jonathan Coleman. Former James Madison football coach Mike Houston took the job at ECU this winter, and he brought much of his coaching staff with him. That includes two guys from the Richmond area, Byron Thweatt, a Matoaca grad, and Fontel Mines, an alumnus of Hermitage.
-- Manchester wide receiver and defensive back Tre Clark signed with Liberty. Clark initially committed to Charlotte, but reopened his recruitment after the season. He picked the Flames over Western Michigan, James Madison, Marshall and Kent State. Teammate Kevin Henderson will play for Wingate.
-- Deep Run's Matt Johnson, a running back and linebacker, will walk on at Virginia Tech. Teammate Kory Brooks will play for McDaniel.
-- Glen Allen quarterback Donovan Riddick will play for West Virginia State. Teammate Chris Butler is headed to Old Dominion, and Donovan Greenhow will play for Western Michigan.
-- Two Hopewell players will play for U.Va.-Wise: Kadarius Singleton and Travonte Jones.