Following Westlake Village Oaks Christian's loss to Westlake Village Westlake, the first-ever meeting between the two Conejo Valley powers, earlier this season, Payton predicted the Lions and Warriors would meet again.
He was right.
"I told you guys that," Payton said Monday night. "We're a determined team."
But a healthy Payton, who was coming off an ankle injury in the first game against the Warriors, along with a revived ground game, could be enough to avenge that earlier 31-12 loss.
"Now it's about making a big play," he said. "I had a chance to do it in the last game and I didn't, but I should have. It would have changed the game."
The Lions have since won nine straight games, downing Valencia 42-33 in the semifinals, and scoring an average of almost 45 points per game.
"That was Week 4 and we've got a young team," said Payton, who caught 10 passes for 78 yards in the first meeting. "We knew further down the season we'd be a much strong team. We're peaking right now and I'm really, really excited for this game."
On the recruiting front, the Trojan commit found his way over to the Rose Bowl for USC's 28-14 win over UCLA. Payton was impressed with how the team performed in coach Lane Kiffin's first season, going 8-5 despite NCAA sanctions.
"They're fighting. That's great," Payton said. "The fact that they had five losses didn't bother me at all (because) they fought in every single one of their games. I'm a huge SC fan."
Payton has also enjoyed keeping an eye on Oregon and Stanford, watching former Oaks Christian players like Ducks linebacker Casey Matthews and Cardinal receiver Chris Owusu take their teams to BCS bowls.
Matthews' father, former USC and NFL linebacker Clay, serves as the Lions defensive coordinator.
"He's over here every other day coaching us, Coach Matthews," he said. "Definitely pay a lot of attention to the alumni for sure."
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