AS IT turns out, East Jackson coach Brian Smith isn’t the only one anticipating big nights out of standout tailback C.J. Allen.
Allen rumbled for 179 yards and two touchdowns — including a 72-yarder on the third play from scrimmage — as the Eagles (1-0) won 28-27 Friday in Smith’s East Jackson coaching debut.
“My son who’s 7 actually asked me on Saturday because he wasn’t here, he said, ‘Daddy, did C.J. break a long run again? I said ‘yeah he did,’” Smith said.
Smith said that just goes to show the obvious importance of Allen to the offensive plans of East Jackson, which hosts Oconee County this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“It’s kind of funny that he picked up on it,” Smith said of his son’s observation. “I said, ‘he needs to do it every week.’ I mean, that’s what we’ve got to have from him.”
“His first one was huge … We got up on them, we’re up 7-0, it was like ‘schew,’” Smith said. “Everybody was excited because, here, we’ve got points. It just kind of felt like everything was going good at that point.”
Allen came up big the rest of the night, too, as he helped the Eagles rush for over 200 yards against a White County team that went 9-3 last year and advanced to the second round of the Class AAA playoffs last year.
“He kind of came in and gave us an opportunity to be successful with some of the things he did,” Smith said. “He had big runs at big times in the ball game.”
Smith said his Eagles still have a lot to improve upon — assignments, technique, penalties and turnovers — but felt the win was huge, especially for a new coaching staff trying to build momentum.
“It’s huge for our program to go ahead and get the W out of the gate,” Smith said. “Because our kids were beat by White (County) last year, and I’m sure they didn’t know a lot about us (the new coaching staff), and it kind of gives a little credence to what we’re doing as coaches and players and the hard work we’ve put in.”
While Allen had a big night, Friday’s win — which halted an East Jackson five-game losing streak dating back to last year — was far from a one-man operation.
Eagle quarterback Tyler Collins, who sustained a foot injury last week, didn’t complete a pass but ran for 65 yards and added a 10-yard touchdown.
“I can’t say enough about T.C. (Tyler Collins),” Smith said. “He’s worked hard for us. We texted some this weekend just about expectations and what he can bring to the table.”
Smith said Allen’s big-play ability at running back paired with Tyler Collins’ running ability at quarterback makes for a nice one-two combo in the Eagle backfield.
“They can both move, and that’s big for us,” Smith said. “Usually, you get a great back and maybe a good thrower, but to have those two guys who can both move and who can both run and play off each other a little bit, it puts (defenses) in a bind.”
East Jackson also got an 80-yard kickoff return from Trent Dowdy, which drew a lot of praise from Smith.
“I’m going to give some credit to our coaches,” Smith said. “I thought our special teams played really good — maybe not everything right, but we did a good job of returning all kicks and punt returns. That was one of the bright spots, looking at us special teams-wise.”
Defensively, Caleb Hardy — who recovered from a high ankle sprain sustained prior to the final week of preseason practice — had a standout night at linebacker. He also lined up at tight end.
“Caleb played so good for us and does so many good things for us and that was big,” Smith said.
Now East Jackson must move on to face another Class AAA team, Oconee County (who was off last week), as the Eagles hope to move to 2-0.
Of course, for that to happen, there’s a good chance that it will start with a big night out of Allen.
“We’ve said all along, we expect a lot out of him and he got the most out of it the other night,” Smith said. “We expect him to have good games and he has to bring it every week and he knows that there’s — not pressure — but an expectation that he’s going to be one of the leaders on the offense.”