South County’s newest puzzle piece didn’t need much time to prove he’s the scariest defender in the region this year. He didn’t need to rip through conference opponents or win any accolades, nor did he need to put together an impressive body of work.
All Kevin Allen needed was one tackle.
It happened at the Stallions’ first scrimmage on Aug. 15, during the South County defense’s second series against Freedom High. An assistant coach pulled Allen aside and ordered him to punish anyone who dared to run the ball against them. Seconds later the transfer linebacker from Massachusetts began creeping toward the line of scrimmage, ready to obey his coach’s command in the most literal fashion possible.
Allen fired through the line unblocked and launched himself into the unsuspecting running back, whose helmet flew off faster than the ball could come out of his hands. The only thing separating the play from a full-blown Jadaveon Clowney reenactment was Allen’s failure to recover the fumble.
“At first I was trying to figure out if I had hit the right kid because I couldn’t find the ball,” he recalled.
Forget the ball. All that mattered to anyone wearing green at that moment was this: South County has something special on its hands this year.
“It’s crazy. He’s a human beast,” said senior defensive back Khave Konteh, barely able to contain his excitement at the memory of the Freedom hit. “I had a front-row seat to [the hit]. I felt like I saw Floyd Mayweather knock out Ricky Hatton.”
Allen came to South County this year from Bedford High in Massachusetts, where he started on varsity each of the last two years at linebacker and offensive line. Originally from Texas, the 16-year-old has lived all over the world, making stops in California, Stafford (Va.), North Carolina, Russia and Turkey alongside a father who spent 22 years in the Marine Corps. Patrick Allen, who now works as a contractor in Afghanistan, played on the Mark Brunell-led University of Washington team that won the 1991 Rose Bowl.
Bouncing around the globe hasn’t allowed Kevin Allen to permanently settle under the wing of a certain coach or team, but he views that transience as a driving force for his relentless self-determination on the football field.
“I think it helped a lot because everywhere I went I had to prove myself,” Allen said. “I never had a spot. I had to earn a spot and take it from somebody.”
Allen’s recent move to Fairfax provided him a choice between South County and Lake Braddock. He ultimately picked South County for its defensive schemes, coaching philosophy and comfort with the football program in general.
In Allen, the Stallions get a player who is equal parts prototypical linebacker and physical specimen. At 6 feet, 200 pounds, Allen is both the fastest and strongest player on his team, at once capable of running a 4.5 40-yard dash and bench-pressing 385 pounds. He’s a power lifter who squats 545 and deadlifts 605, the latter just 10 pounds shy of a world record in the 16-17 age group. Though he hasn’t yet lifted competitively, Allen aims to bust that record before he turns 18.
On the field Allen is the consummate middle linebacker with a knack for tracking down ball carriers wherever they go. In a scrimmage last week, a Stonewall Jackson tailback took a toss and looked primed for a big gain around the edge. But his daylight vanished when Allen beelined from the hashmark to the sideline to stop him for a pickup of one yard.
South County coach Gerry Pannoni sees Allen as a combination of the dynamic linebacker tandem that led the Stallions to the region title in 2011: He’s got the intimidating physical presence of Devin VanDyke (now playing for Virginia Tech) and the leadership qualities of Timmy Hunt.
“He’s high energy all the time,” Pannoni said. “He’s got a motor that doesn’t stop.”
Allen was also a reliable starter at right and left guard his freshman and sophomore years, but for now Pannoni only has him lined up at the Mike linebacker spot. That’s just fine with Allen, who has always gravitated toward the defensive side of the ball anyway.
“The reason I like defense is it’s all instinct,” said Allen, who helped South County’s first-team defense hold Freedom without a first down in their scrimmage. “It’s how you react to the game, whereas on offense when you line up you know where you’ve got to go and your assignments. On defense you’ve got to see the play develop and you’ve got to think.”
Allen’s destiny on the gridiron was laid out in his first pee-wee football practice at age 9. One of the coaches was holding a bag to absorb some light hits from kids running through a bull-rushing drill. Allen’s hit wasn’t so light — he ran right through the obstacle, leaving the startled coach lying face up on the turf.
Kevin Allen didn’t need any more drills to learn his place on the football field. All he needed was one tackle.