Friday Night Hero: North Rowan's T.J. Allen
By Ronnie Gallagher
SPENCER - When asked what he liked about playing cornerback, North Rowan's T.J. Allen smiled and said, "You get to hit people."
He made a hit on Friday night that will be remembered in Spencer for quite a while. It kept the Cavaliers' hopes of sharing the Yadkin Valley Conference championship alive.
North defeated West Montgomery in overtime 20-14, and all of the hero worship was aimed at Allen, a converted quarterback.
North had just scored first in the extra period, but owned a precarious six-point lead after the two-point conversion failed. Nixon knew West had a very good kicker, so the defense had to come through.
On what proved to be the last play of the game, the Warriors tried a reverse to receiver Tirea Sims, who headed around left end.
"I saw the reverse coming and when the receiver got the ball, everything slowed down," North coach Joe Nixon said. "Everything went silent. I thought he had a good chance to score."
Sims didn't, thanks to Allen, who made his Senior Night even more special.
"I was on the right side of the field and was rolling left when they ran the reverse," Allen recalled. "I came back and just focused on making the tackle."
Sims was stopped inches short of the end zone as Allen whipped him to the ground.
"It was close," Allen smiled. "I felt like I had to get it done. I just felt like I owed the team."
Forgotten now because of the win was the final play of regulation when Sims and Allen hooked up. This time, Sims won the battle, catching a touchdown pass to force overtime."T.J. came off the field and everybody was a little upset," Nixon said. "But T.J. manned up and said, 'My bad.' I told him to just go make a play. Thank goodness he made the stop. Then everybody was excited and relieved. We had finally won a close one."
Allen didn't have to worry about his teammates, either. They echoed their coach, strapped up the headgear and went out to win the game.
"We all care about each other," Allen said.
For Allen to make the big play showed he is a quality veteran who has been through these wars.
"That's a prime example of moving on to the next play," Nixon said. "You're going to have a chance to make another one."
For Allen to switch to cornerback with no attitude after starting at quarterback for three years shows even more maturity. Alexis Archie came in and took over those duties.
"It was fine with me," Allen said. "All summer, I was working at receiver and cornerback. I'm an all-around player so I did it for the team."
"It just speaks volumes for T.J.'s character and the way he has been raised," Nixon said. "T.J.has taken his role at defensive back and embraced it. He has done a good job. Changing positions is not always easy. But I think he is really enjoying it."
Especially after making the most important play on Friday.
"When they scored (to force overtime), I was like, 'Dang, I let the team down,' " Allen said. "But when overtime came, I made the tackle and thought, 'Thank God.' "
What his tackle did was give North a better seed and perhaps some home playoff games.
The win left North 5-1 in the YVC, tied for second with South Stanly, which the Cavaliers defeated earlier in the season. If South upsets Albemarle on Friday, North can grab a share of first.
Allen hopes that happens, coupled with a win over South Davidson. But he has bigger goals.
"Everybody wants to make it all the way," he said.