McCANDLESS, Pa. — The college and NFL games are blurring the lines between tight end and wide receiver more and more. Blocking is great, but every team wants a mismatch tight end who makes plays in the passing game. Avonworth Senior Peyton Faulkner is the type of player who is perfect for the flex tight-end role that you are seeing pop up across the country.
Faulkner plans to play tight end at Kent State next season, but against North Catholic, he spent the entirety of his game either lined up out wide or in the slot. Faulker had a monster receiving game, posting five catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Faulkner also created a pass interference that resulted in a gain of over 20 yards. The name of the game was to throw it up and watch Faulkner find it, as he hauled in jump ball after jump ball.
“I have been playing with Nate (Harper) since sixth grade, that has always been our thing,” said Faulkner, on his ability to go up and get the jump ball and make game-changing plays. “We have really great chemistry; he will trust me to go get it even when I am covered.”
His first touchdown was a post route from 38-yards out. He had inside leverage on the defender, boxed him out like a power forward, and grabbed the ball in the air. Faulkner landed on his feet, the defender did not, and the touchdown was easy from there. The second touchdown came right before halftime. It was the old fade in the red zone with one-on-one coverage. Once again you saw Faulkner highpoint the ball and win in the air with ease.
In the third quarter, the team went to Faulkner on a jump ball toward the sideline, in a situation where he once again had one-on-one coverage. The defender was on the hip of Faulker who put on the brakes, as he tracked a pass in the air. The defender was not as quick to stop, and Faulkner was able to catch the pass, land, and turn up field past the cornerback who lost his balance. Faulkner raced for 60 yards, his biggest play on a night that included two touchdowns.
Of course, the transition to the college game will not be quite as easy. While Faulkner flashed physicality on defense, lining up at wide receiver on offense did not allow you to see the blocking that could make him a complete tight end.
Still, one thing Faulkner has on his side is an older brother Trevor, who went through a very similar transition. Trevor Faulkner played the same role in the Avonworth offense. He graduated in 2021 and jumped to the FBS level to play tight end. He started his college career at Air Force, redshirted a season, and then walked on to Pitt, where he is currently on the roster.
Seeing Trevor adjust to the college game has helped Peyton realize what it takes to make the jump to the next level, and Trevor being back in town has now given Peyton the best coach that money could buy.
“He is a great mentor, he sits there still chews me out every game, I see him at halftime and stuff,” said Peyton, who looked happy that his brother landed somewhere that he can still have that connection.
Trevor has preached to Peyton to keep his head down and not take the change lightly.
“He always tells me not to be comfortable,” said Peyton on his brother’s advice. “It’s easy to come out here, and do this here, but it’s different at the college level and he always tells me not to be comfortable.”
It is going to be a transition, but the game is transitioning more towards the skill set that Faulkner fits and he has the guidance of an older brother who is going through it currently and is learning about the big leap. Faulkner is not getting too comfortable against his high school peers, but he surely is enjoying a senior season that has the Avonworth Antelopes set for a run at the WPIAL championship, something he got to see his brother accomplish back in 2019.
“A WPIAL championship and beyond,” said Faulkner of his goals for the season. “That is what we worked all summer and all winter for so that is definitely our goal.”