High School Football

Jon Allen -- Kamiakin's cornerstone

It's a play so common at Kamiakin football games that it's easy to lose perspective of how rare it is.

A basic run to the left -- a sweep or something in the guard-tackle gap. The right tackle pinches down, maybe the guard pulls to get an extra blocker up in the hole to take on the linebacker.

No reason in the world to account for the backside defensive end, who if he's any good will have to wait a tick to make sure nothing is breaking back his way before pursuing down the line.

No chance he's going to make the play.

But then it happens: No. 40 in Kamiakin's red or black, tearing down the line of scrimmage behind the offensive linemen, getting an arm into the ball carrier's legs as he hits the hole.

Often he makes the tackle. Sometimes he just disrupts the play and the linebackers clean it up.

Either way, for the rest of the day the offense will account for Jon Allen ... every play.

"It should stop, but I'm amazed every time," said Kamiakin head coach Scott Biglin. "He's 5-9, 170 pounds (listed at 5-11 and 180), but he takes on those big ol' guys and plays like he's 6-5 and 250. He's the best defensive player I've ever seen play in high school. Ever.

"If he was 6-3 and 240, he's Pac-10."

No, Allen is not 6-3 and 240. Truth be told, he's probably not 5-11 and 180. But no player in the Tri-Cities has had as big an impact as the Kamiakin senior.

The best player on perhaps the state's best defense, Allen will need to be on his game today when his Braves take on two-time defending state champion Bellevue in the 3A title game at 4 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome.

Kamiakin's defensive numbers are impressive. In the regular season, they gave up fewer than nine points and 213 yards a game, most of that coming after the starters would leave with plenty of time to play in the fourth quarter.

The Braves have been just as impressive in the postseason, limiting Kelso to six points and then Mount Spokane and Capital, two of the highest scoring teams in the state, to 19 and 18 points in blowout wins.

Along the way, there have been some outstanding individual performances. Shad Fletcher has 10 interceptions, and Tim White has returned two of his six picks for six points. Dom Davis also has a pair of pick-sixes.

Linebacker Drew Oord has 55 tackles that went for no gain or a loss, matching the mark Josh Spaeth set in 2000. He has also forced nine turnovers. Fellow backers Zach Umemoto (112 tackles, 42 for loss or no gain) and Trevor Powers (106, 37) are equally impressive.

On the line, Tanner Meier has 55 tackles and 81/2 sacks, and Joe Hunt 51/2 sacks.

But none of them trumps Allen, who leads the team in sacks (151/2) and tackles (142, unheard of for a defensive lineman). He also has forced four turnovers and has 35 tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage.

So how does an undersized D-end make so many plays? Let defensive coordinator Tim Maher explain.

"The first thing is he's probably the most difficult kid to block I've ever coached," said Maher, who has been building Kamiakin defenses for three decades. "Next, he only runs about a 4.8 (second) 40, but he's still the fastest kid for 10-15 yards. And No. 3, he reads better than any kid who ever played defense at Kamiakin."

All those traits can be found in those run plays Allen so routinely chases down.

"That's what I'm talking about -- he's quicker than anybody else for 10-15 yards," Maher said. "I remember in the Kelso game, they run a stretch option play away, and he takes on the pitch back. Two plays later, they run stretch option to his side, and he's on the pitch back.

"No one does that. That is a kid with heart beyond imagination. A phenomenal, phenomenal kid."

Indeed, defensive ends with the ability to cover sideline-to-sideline are less common than a Paul Wulff victory in the Pac-10 -- and there's only two of those.

Allen takes it all in stride, pretty much blowing off those records he has been piling up.

"It's not really that big a deal for me," he said. "I know one reason (for the records) is I've been healthy. I haven't missed one game in the last three years."

Which is a little like saying Brett Favre has all those passing records simply because he has been a starting QB in the NFL since Moses was in shortpants.

Allen has always played defensive end. Ironically, he grew up bulling his way past linemen as he was close to his current stature even as a freshman.

It was his sophomore year, when he was promoted to varsity and started his first game, when he figured out might doesn't always make the right play.

"Definitely it was a big change in tempo, but that's how I realized how much of a difference I could make," he said. "Instead of being a physical defensive end, I would be a quick and speedy defensive end."

Besides, he said, the team already has great linebackers, along with great corners and safeties and linemen.

And, for the most part, they take after their leader: fast, with a nose for the ball.

"Definitely one of the strengths with the defense is how quick we are," Allen said. "We're definitely not the biggest defense. We're smaller than other teams, but we don't let that get to us."

Maher was quick to say that Allen's individual numbers don't come without a lot of help from his teammates.

"It helps to be surrounded by 10 other great football players," he said. "The sum of the whole is always greater than the individual parts.

"All of 'em are aces."

Aces who will be all-in today in the big game. Which begs the question: Is this the best Kamiakin defense ever?

"Here's the deal," Maher said in his matter-of-fact style. "We talked about that four weeks ago, three weeks ago. When you get to this point, you have to factor in degree of difficulty. We're at the level where (the offenses) just get better and better each week.

"Still, we just have to get better. Dom Davis -- he's getting better. He's making huge defensive plays right now.

"We've had some great teams in the past, but we haven't been here. We haven't been 13-0. We have not played consistently like this."

Translation: Ask him tonight, and the scoreboard will give you the answer.