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Allen, Airedales hope to finish strong

Allen, Airedales hope to finish strong


By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 

B. Allen


Brayden Allen is standing near the 40-yard line, the bright late-afternoon sun careening over his shoulder pads. 


With practice wrapping up, Allen is reflecting on a season of peaks and valleys. There is some 'what if' discussion as well. 


With his team-leading 19 receptions, Allen is doing something offensive coordinator Chris Smith wasn't sure was going to happen - he's playing football. 


"Looking at the success he's had this year, and know he hasn't played football since his ninth-grade year, if he could have had those two years (2018-19), I wish I could see what he would have done," Smith said. "He's been a huge impact for us; block and running good (pass) routes. He's such a good kid."


Allen missed parts of the 2018-19 seasons due to injuries. And, when first-year coach Rusty Bush began to put the pieces together following the COVID-19 shutdown, which completely wiped out spring practice, he steered the kid in the No. 11 jersey toward the quarterback position. 


"Honestly, the biggest thing we've learned is to have no excuses," he said. "Coming into the year we didn't get to have summer practices, and then we had a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive coordinator, and a new coach. We started the season and we've to quarantine, too. 


"I think the motto of the year is to have no excuses; we're going to continue to play."


"Coming into this thing, we knew we wanted to be tight-end oriented, and we knew he was the guy we were kind of looking for," Bush said. "Then we got to looking for a quarterback, so we gave him some reps. And really, it was just to push a lot of different guys to give us some depth there."


Allen started the Airedales' 2020 season opener with Van Buren, completing 3-of-6 passes for 23 yards. A week later, he was on the receiving end of a 30-yard pass from Conner Stacy, one of four different players to start a game at quarterback. 


In last week's 49-35 loss to Greenbrier, Allen caught a career-high six passes for 36 yards. 


Alma racked up 382 total yards and scored a season-high five touchdowns in last week's game. 


"When you draw it on a piece of paper, that's what you want to happen," Bush said. "Obviously, it usually never works out that way."  


"We haven't shown any empty (sets) all year," Allen said. "We were able to spread it out and air it out a little bit."


Alma quarterback Hunter McAlister threw for 251 yards and four touchdowns, with five different receivers catching at least two passes.


"He's the versatile tight end," Bush said. "He can put his hand down and he can block. We can also flex him out. We put him at outside receiver, we can put him in the backfield. What we do offensive is so multiple, guys like that are important. We think we will get that from year-to-year in Alma. That's extremely hard on a defense.


"Being able to have several tight ends and put them in different positions is extremely advantageous on our end."


The Airedales conclude the regular season this week against Farmington. Despite a losing season, amid the topsy-turvy 2020 season, Allen said the Airedales have remained positive. 


"We keep coming to practice trying to get better and hopefully get ready for the playoffs," he said. "Hopefully, I look forward to putting a lot of points on the board (this week)."