Sondheimer: Centennial's Tayten Beyer backs up his confident talk with elite play

Tayten Beyer is fearless on the football field. It’s the character trait most needed for playing cornerback, the position where one minute you can be a hero preventing a completion and the next minute cast as the goat for giving up a touchdown.

There are so many potential highs and lows in one-on-one duels between defender and receiver that self-confidence is a must.

Beyer, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior at Corona Centennial High, embraces the risks and rewards.

“I feel I’m the best player on the field and nobody can take that away from me,” he said.

Beyer, who committed to San Diego State, can stick out his chest proudly and know that he’s gone up against the best this season. That’s what happens when you play Las Vegas Bishop Gorman, Mater Dei, Peoria (Ariz.) Liberty and now St. John Bosco on Friday in a Southern Section Division 1 semifinal playoff game. They have a combined record of 40-3.

“Seeing all this competition, the top of the top, it motivates me to play harder,” he said. “You want to be at your best. It brings me confidence to do my best.”

Coach Matt Logan says, “He can do it all.”

Besides having a 4.0 grade-point average, Beyer returns punts and kickoffs. He also can kick. He was a quarterback his freshman season, then receiver as a sophomore before switching to defense last season. He ran track, so he possesses a burst of speed that he uses at strategic moments. He has four interceptions this season and ran back one for a touchdown against Mater Dei.

“Knowing it was against Mater Dei, I knew I could do it against anybody,” he said.

Before several games, he’s gone on social media and warned that throwing the ball in his direction is a risk you might not want to take. Each time he has backed it up with strong performances.

Lots of receivers have been taller than him, but Beyer doesn’t back down from the challenge. Using quickness, smarts and anticipation helps a smaller cornerback overcome the taller receiver.

“Being a cornerback, you have to be fearless because outside receivers are going to be bigger and taller than you,” he said. “You need great instincts, footwork, physicality at the line, good speed. The key for me is when the ball is thrown, I look at their eyes and hands.”

Centennial has produced plenty of top defensive backs. Camryn Bynum (Minnesota Vikings) is in the NFL and Jayden Williams (Miami Ohio), Isaiah Young (California), Calvin Pitcher (Idaho State), Jaden Mickey (Notre Dame), Eric Butler (San Diego State) and Kaleb Tuliau (UCLA) all are playing in Division 1.

Friday’s game in Bellflower is the resumption of a great rivalry between St. John Bosco and Centennial. The schools haven’t played in football since 2019, but have had memorable matchups, including Centennial winning 62-52 in the 2015 Division 1 final and Centennial winning 48-41 in the 2014 Division 1 final.

This matchup could be another high-scoring affair with two offenses that like to run to set up the pass.

Beyer is leaving for college in January. Being a cornerback and having a short memory has him ready for the ups and downs of life.

“It’s one play at a time,” he said. “You always have to stay confident. If you’re not confident, you’re going to give up a lot of catches and lot of touchdowns.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.