With its summer program kicking off last week, the Allen football team officially began penning the next chapter toward its 2019 season.
The Eagles entered workouts looking to build off a spring rife with personnel questions, but one where head coach Terry Gambill lauded his team’s attitude and initiative toward improvement.
Although 2019 will present one of the more inexperienced groups Allen has had during its rise to state and national prominence, the progression toward reaching the team’s annual expectations doesn’t change, according to Gambill.
“You’re trying to take a group of young men and make them into a team. It takes every step. You just don’t have a team without going through the process,” he said “You start from here and begin working towards becoming a team in how you communicate and how you come together and how you build.
“You’ve got to be unselfish and a team player to have a great team.”
The Eagles will have plenty of outlets to further harness that vision during the summer, albeit with a different wrinkle than in years past. Instead of making the trip to Arkansas for the Shootout of the South – a summertime staple for the Eagles’ skill-position players – Allen will instead participate in an event hosted by Nike, held at The Star in Frisco on June 19, that will include a 7-on-7 tournament and lineman challenge.
The Eagles’ 7-on-7 regiment will give spectators a chance to gauge the chemistry between senior quarterback Raylen Sharpe and a receiving corps that features juniors Blaine and Bryson Green, senior Darrion Sherfield and junior Grant Robinson.
It’s up front, however, where perhaps Allen’s most pivotal positional voids lie. Once the 2019 season begins on Aug. 30, the Eagles will roll out an entirely new batch of starters on its offensive and defensive lines – two units that have been at the heart of Allen’s annual tour de force of the stateside gridiron.
“Overall, I think on both sides of the football that the offensive and defensive lines are where the game is played,” Gambill said. “If you’re really successful on the O-line and D-line, you can have a really good football team.”
One thing the Eagles have done to combat their youth in the trenches is move senior Elijah Fisher from tight end, where he netted all-district honors as a junior, to defensive end – joining a front that includes names like seniors Lane Lewis, Cole Latos, Cyris McDougle and Michael Onwuzurike.
“[Fisher] has been working at defensive end and we wanted to take a look at him there,” Gambill said. “He had a good spring and we thought he did a lot of good things but at the same time has things to work on. I think it was a good spring for Elijah.”
On paper, the defensive line may prove better equipped to overcome the graduation of four starters, given the unit’s penchant for rotating personnel. Although none of the aforementioned names are returning starters, players like Latos and Onwuzurike still logged at least 275 snaps last season.
Proven experience is a bit tougher to come by on the offensive line, although senior guard Kolton Ehlert saw time as an injury fill-in during the late stages of the Eagles’ playoff run last season. Ehlert is among the names in contention for a spot in Allen’s offensive front, joined by senior Josiah Nicklas, junior Eddie Cao, senior Tanner Norris, sophomore Jackson Newville (an all-district transfer from John Paul II), sophomore Neto Umeozulu and senior Justin Reimer.
“With those kids, the big deal is just how they keep improving and how well they work this summer,” Gambill said.
With the Aug. 30 season opener against Cedar Hill on the horizon, they’ve got 81 days left to do so.