Since junior high school, Jeff Allen and his Central Valley football teammates have expected this day would come.
The talent-laden, senior-dominated Bears play Kamiakin at 1:30 p.m. today at Albi Stadium in the first round of the state AAA football playoffs.
“Ever since ninth grade we’ve been saying we were going to take state,” said Allen, CV’s senior tight end and standout middle linebacker.
That’s still a long way down the road and the Greater Spokane League’s playoff record against Big Nine teams hasn’t been good.
Still, CV will field a team’s worth of potential all-GSL football players, Allen among them, against a foe that some say is perhaps the best in the Big Nine at this point in the season.
The Bears dominated league like few teams have in recent years. They led the league in total defense and offense and could, by virtue of their unbeaten season, have the league’s most valuable players for both.
“Jeff is the only all-league player coming back on defense, and on offense, obviously, Giorgio (Usai) has to have a chance,” said coach Rick Giampietri.
Usai rushed for nearly 1,600 yards and 28 touchdowns in nine games this year and set a GSL single-season scoring record with 146 points.
He helped CV average more than 40 points per game. As a result, quarterback R.J. Del Mese never really was turned loose.
“We’ve got the best quarterback in town,” said Giampietri. “We haven’t had to push him all year but, when he had to, he came through with clutch performances.”
Del Mese completed nearly 64 percent of his passes for 1,049 yards and threw only one interception. Had the team needed to throw more, Giampietri said, Del Mese could have passed for 1,500 yards. CV’s running game was too good.
The Bears also had the league’s second-best receiver in Ryan Millar, who caught 27 passes for 593 yards and six touchdowns.
Much of the team’s success, Allen said, should be attributed to its linemen. Including star center Mike Van Houten, guard Aaron Bauer and tackle Bob Perkes, CV’s line was not only large but dominant.
“They have to be the one of the biggest lines in state,” said Allen. “I think other teams have to look at that. Their strength is they push people off the ball.”
Allen and fellow linebacker Luke Stavros, who also played fullback and blocked terrifically for Usai, gave the Bears two large and mobile ballhawks on defense.
Along with linemen Perkes, John Jolley and sophomore nose guard Will Beck, in particular, they were hard to run against, allowing fewer than 100 yards per game.
“We just fill the gaps and take on lead blockers,” said Allen.
Both backers, added their coach, run to the ball, are great blitzers and are good in pass drops.
CV’s pass defense struggled early, but the team was second in league in interceptions and Giampietri said that defensive backs Kris Burkland and sophomore Nate McFarlane merit all-league consideration.
Allen is a third-year starter at tight end and a second-year linebacker.
“I wasn’t sure if I could play it but I did all right, I think,” he said.
Last winter the 6-foot-3, 215-pounder required insertion of a plate and seven screws to repair an ankle broken and dislocated in basketball.
By May he played on basketball teams that traveled to tournaments in Nevada and North Carolina.
Football, however, is Allen’s sport of choice and something he will likely play in college. And if he had a choice, it would be as a linebacker.
“Both are good positions, but I think on defense you get a lot more action,” Allen said.
Besides, he doesn’t have time to worry about basketball. There is still football to be played.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: See related story under the headline: Defense must contain scrambling Kamiakin quarterback