2023 Trib HSSN Preseason Football All-Star Team: Central Catholic’s Payton Wehner

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Saturday, July 22, 2023 | 6:01 AM


Lying in a hospital bed about three years ago, Payton Wehner took inventory of his world.

“That was a point in life where, honestly, if I could go back, I wouldn’t change a thing,” said Wehner, Central Catholic’s senior quarterback.

Not the wildcat play that resulted in a season-ending injury? Not a hit that resulted in two broken bones in his right leg?

“Not at all,” he said.

Wehner was a freshman when he was playing in the WPIAL 6A championship game — the first of three for him — when he was wheeled off the field on a stretcher and sent to the hospital.

He held up a fist as he left the field. He gave a thumbs-up in the hospital.

“That helped me more than anything that night,” Wehner said. “It motivated me to get to where I am today.”

Wehner (6-foot, 175) had surgery, rehabbed and returned to the Vikings, reestablishing himself as a team leader and playmaker.

He helped the team to two more WPIAL finals, including last year when he became the first Central quarterback to throw for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Not Dan Marino. Payton Wehner.

“I never thought I could come back stronger,” Wehner said. “I wasn’t even sure if I would walk again. You’re going along playing football and having fun, and it’s gone like that. It’s scary.”

A support system kept him in the game: family, friends, teammates.

“I don’t know if I have ever been around someone who works as hard as he does,” Central Catholic first-year offensive coordinator Ryan Reitz said. “Whether it’s golf, bowling or Tiddlywinks, you want him on your team. He leads by example, but when he talks, the kids listen.”

Wehner said he heard about the close-knit program at Central before he enrolled there.

“You hear about the brotherhood here, all of the alumni and former players,” he said. “You see it here. I’m like, is this for real?”

Wehner is finding his way into the Division I football conversation, even with his size leaving something to be desired.

St. Francis (Pa.) offered him a scholarship recently.

“I know coaches are looking for a 6-4 guy,” Wehner said. “But the QB at Saint Francis is 5-11. You can be a smaller guy and still make plays. You can have smarts and be accurate.”

The Vikings are aiming for a fifth straight finals appearance, with Wehner in the pace car.

He has one title, from that 2020 season. Central also won in 2019 but was the runner-up in 2021 and ‘22.

“We have a little chip on our shoulder this year,” Wehner said. “(A new staff) is pushing us to get better.”

Payton Wehner

Central Catholic

Senior

6-0/175

Division I offers: St. Francis (Pa.)

2022 statistics: He completed 176 of 285 passes for 2,505 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Bill Beckner Jr. is a TribLive reporter covering local sports in Westmoreland County. He can be reached at bbeckner@triblive.com.

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