Payton Beyer just makes plays.
Sometimes they’re flashy, other times they’re routine, but he makes them even when everyone knows in a crucial situation the ball is coming his way.
The Huskies counted on the senior wide receiver this season more than ever and he rewarded them with another fantastic season that put him in the conversation of the best receiver in OHS history and made him an easy pick as the Owatonna People’s Press’ All-Area Player of the Year.
Beyer ended his three-year varsity career No. 3 on the all-time receiving list in school history after hauling in 78 career passes for 1,283 yards and 12 touchdowns. He caught six of those touchdowns this season as he amassed 694 yards on 49 receptions, even as he adjusted to a new receiving role.
After spending the past two seasons as an outside receiver, Beyer moved into the slot position this season as the Huskies tried to find different ways to get him the ball. It meant running routes he hadn’t run in the past, some of which included catching passes in the middle of the field more frequently.
“I think we threw the ball more than we ran it,” Owatonna head coach Jeff Williams said. “That had a lot to do with Payton’s playmaking ability.”
Beyer caught nearly half of the passes senior quarterback Brayden Truelson threw this season and drew plenty of attention especially on long third-down situations.
“Our third-down conversion rate was way higher than it would’ve been without him,” Williams said. “This year, our options were more limited. We didn’t have that big stable of receivers, so a lot of that fell on Payton. He’d get double coverage and still make a play.”
It helped that Beyer and Truelson have a strong connection on and off the field, where they have complete trust in each other. The two have grown up playing sports together since an early age. At first, they competed against each other in park and recreation leagues and later they ended up on the same squads through football, basketball and baseball. Through middle school, both actually played quarterback until Truelson emerged as more of a true quarterback than Beyer. The move worked to both personalities as Beyer has more of a free spirit attitude while Truelson studies the game.
“What really set Brayden and Payton apart was paying attention to detail, whereas Payton just loves to play,” Williams said. “Those two guys needed to be on the field at the same time. It just made natural sense to emphasize Payton as a receiver.”
Beyer admits that Truelson probably knows the playbook better than he does because Truelson has to know linemen’s assignments, too. But both nearly always know what’s on the other’s mind on the football field.
“We’re always on the same page,” Beyer said. “We always know what we’re doing.”
Williams recalled a rare instance where the two weren’t on the same page. Beyer ran a hitch route and Truelson threw a fade route. It came on a play where the receiver has several options of routes to run and the misfire shocked Huskies coaches on the sideline.
Beyer and Truelson have not only helped each other on the field, but also off the field. After Truelson tore his anterior cruciate ligament and started rehab work, Beyer worked out with him throughout the process.
“There’s no one else you’d want to go into a game with,” Truelson said. “He’s an even better friend.”
Truelson will leave OHS with a distinguished career, too. He finished as the No. 2 all-time passer for the Huskies after completing 260 of 421 passes for 3,753 yards and 41 TDs in his career. His 62% completion percentage is also second all-time in school history.
Together the duo helped continue the strong football tradition at Owatonna by winning section titles their junior and senior years to push the streak to five consecutive years. Both came on varsity for the second of back-to-back state titles. Truelson took over for an injured Sol Havelka in the second week of the 2018 season and held the role until the playoffs. He split time with Havelka the following season before taking over as the full-time starter this year.
Williams knew he had a good athlete coming up in Beyer because of his lineage. Beyer's father played on the defensive line for Owatonna and his mother was a standout athlete for the Huskies as well. Plus, he’s the nephew of Chad Kolander, the 1990 Minnesota Mr. Basketball award winner and Gophers basketball player.
Beyer has attracted offers from Division II schools University of Minnesota, Duluth, Bemidji State University and Winona State University. Wide receivers coach Nate Skala attended Winona State University and played an integral role in honing Beyer’s skills. Beyer said he’s leaning toward Winona State and UMD at the moment.