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Tuesday, Sep. 30, 2014

Allen's leadership lands in Portageville at right time

Sunday, November 4, 2012

(Photo)
Portageville running back Daniel Allen's sophisticated nature has turned him into a natural leader for the Bulldogs football team.
(Chris Pobst)
PORTAGEVILLE -- There's a sense that when Daniel Allen speaks, most people will listen.

Although somewhat soft-spoken, Allen's assertiveness in conversation isn't about how he might command one but with the maturity of the words that come out.

The whiskered Allen even looks older than his peers with nearly a full beard coming in. Perfect for a brisk night of football.

"He's a young man with an old soul," Portageville head coach Jeff Bullock said about Allen. "It makes it easy for me to relate to him and I just have a lot of faith in what Daniel thinks. He's got such a level head for such a young man."

Allen's sophisticated nature has turned him into a natural leader for the Portageville Bulldogs football team. The senior is looked upon as their motivator, their go-to and their coaches extra set of eyes while on the field.

"To be such a young kid, he's really got a serious side," Bullock said. "He believes in hard work and comes from a great family. I'll bounce a lot of things off of him after a practice and ask him things like, 'How do you think everybody reacted to this' or if I handled a particular situation right. That's how much I admire his maturity."

There's no doubt that come Monday night, when the Bulldogs take on Valle for the Class 1, District 1 championship and a chance to move on to the state quarterfinals, that Allen will lead the way.

"He's the motor," senior teammate Dominique Walker said about Allen. "He's been leading, so we're going to keep following him."

Allen has led the turnaround that has moved Portageville from a struggling program to one that is three wins away from playing for a state championship.

And just three years ago, he had never played organized football.

Allen, who is known in Portageville as 'Cali', grew up in Los Angeles, Calif., and lived in Nipomo, Calif., almost three hours away from LA, for 13 years.

In Nipomo, a town with a population of around 16,700, Allen was more interested in soccer rather than football.

He moved to Kansas City where he stayed for a few years until family circumstances pushed the city dweller into the bootheel.

"It was a big change for me," Allen said about making the move to Portageville. "Down here, everybody knows everybody and everybody is real nice and is always asking 'How are you doing', as opposed to California and Kansas City where everybody's like, 'Whoa, why are you talking to me?'"

Once he moved to Portageville with his brother in law, Allen was entering his sophomore year of high school. Shortly after, he received a call from former Portageville coach Ronnie Jones about trying out for the football team.

"I thought, I might as well," Allen said. "I mainly wanted to play basketball and there wasn't a soccer team so, why not?"

Allen started every game as a cornerback during his sophomore season. He also won the junior varsity's offensive player of the year award as a running back.

"Once I began to play I liked it a lot and figured that's what I would be doing," Allen said. "After my junior year, I realized I really liked football and was good at it and wanted to get better. I really put myself to be a football player. I've still got a lot to learn."

Allen's work in the offseason has rocketed him as one of the best running backs in southeast Missouri.

The 6-0, 185 pound tailback has rushed for over 1,600 yards and has scored 21 touchdowns. Allen owns more than half of Portageville's rushing yards, who have amassed 2,800 on the year so far.

"This offseason, he put in a lot of work," Walker said about Allen. "All of that work is paying off for him."

"'D-Cali' has stepped it up phenomenally," senior offensive lineman Nate Bessinger added. "We couldn't have asked anything better from him. He's taken the lead."

Just as quickly as he took to football, Allen fit in with his newfound surroundings.

It didn't take long for him to find guys he could be friends with and they all happen to have the same interests, play the same sports and even share a theme within their names.

Allen, Walker, Dion Foster and Denzell Simmons have been dubbed the 'Four D's', because they're always found together and they all share the same letter for their first name.

They also all share the same position on the football field -- running back.

"Since he's moved here, we've been really good friends," said Foster. "Everybody just took him in. He's a cool dude."

"We've been the 'Four D's' for awhile," Walker said. "We've been tight ever since."

Talks about being successful in sports quickly spurred too.

Allen's move to Portageville, completing the 'Four D's' and having Bullock take over as head coach during their senior season has all fell into place for a once struggling football team.

"When I first moved here, me, Dominique, Dion and Denzell always talked about 'Aw man, we're the 'Four D's', we're going to try and win state in basketball and football'. But then in football, we did so bad. We kind of moved away from that afterwards.

"Now, looking back at it, it's kind of crazy with us talking about it and now this could actually happen."

All eyes are on Allen when he's on the field. The way he carries himself has most of his teammates striving to do that much better for their leader.

"He's been that guy on the team. He's always motivating us to try and top him, even though we probably can't," Foster laughed.

Although they feature four running backs, Allen, by far, sees the majority of the carries.

In the last two games, Allen has ran for 323 yards and six touchdowns. Last Wednesday, in Portageville's 30-12 win against Hayti, Allen carried the ball 31 times. Simmons came in second with 13 carries.

"Daniel generally cares about every kid that plays with us," said Bullock. "He understands when it's time to have fun and he understands when it's time to work. When he works, Daniel sets the tone."

Allen's maturity lets him see the bigger picture in most cases. Of course, he wants to win football games, score touchdowns and have fun like an 18-year old should, but he understands the amount of time and effort it takes to participate on a football team and coach one.

Which is why his personal success doesn't mean much to Allen.

"We want to win games, not just for us, but for coach Bullock too, because we've seen how hard he's worked," Allen said. "I don't think he's realized how big of a deal this has been for us seniors. To have a season like this, we credit it so much to him."

Portageville sits with nine wins for the first time since 2002 entering their district title game against Valle Monday. The game will be played at Portageville High School, which is a place Allen didn't expect his team or himself to be at this point.

From Los Angeles, to Nipomo, to Kansas City and now Portageville; "I guess you can say it's been unexpected," Allen said. "Everything happens for a reason. It's just one of those things where it happens and you hope it doesn't end."