Other than his during playing days at Ferrum College, Shane Allen has always worn the Cavalier blue. That has changed, however, as Allen has accepted the head football coaching position at Tazewell High School.
It will be quite an adjustment for Allen, who graduated from Carroll County in 1994 after a standout career as a lineman. He went on to start at defensive tackle for the Ferrum Panthers until graduating in 1999. After graduation, he returned to Carroll County that same year to join the Cavaliers’ then-new head coach Tom Hale. He has coached at Carroll ever since that time, taking over as defensive coordinator in 2006.
“The biggest thing for me right now is clothing. I have nothing but blue stuff,” Allen said. “With 13 years of coaching at Carroll, the majority of my stuff is blue and has Cavaliers on it, so I am going to have to get some more Tazewell stuff. It will be different.”
And so will Carroll County’s sideline. Hale and Allen could always been counted on for entertaining in-game exchanges as the two talked over strategies during a contest. Seeing his 13-year assistant on the other side will be different, but Carroll’s head coach thinks his protégé is more than ready.
“He deserves a shot to be a head coach. I’m as proud of him as I can be. I think he’ll do a good job if they’ll give him a chance,” Hale said. “He’s been a loyal coach to me for 13 years. He’s been very, very valuable to us and has a tremendous knowledge of the game.”
Of course, that relationship will be strained for a week when Carroll County and Tazewell meet up for what will probably be their last Southwest District showdown in week eight of the 2012 season. Carroll will most likely head to the River Ridge District in 2013, while the four remaining Southwest District teams will most likely join the Clinch Mountain District.
“It will definitely be very interesting to see. Like I told Coach Hale, ‘I hope you guys go 9-1’ and he told me the same thing,” Allen said. “I am a Carroll boy, so I will be pulling for Carroll every week except for when they play us.”
Allen said leaving the Carroll coaching staff and his home county was a tough decision. At the same time, he will be taking over a program that has a strong tradition, and the potential to reach the top of the mountain again.
“I was born and bred in Carroll County, love Carroll County, but the opportunity to pick up a job that has such a good future was too much to pass up,” said Allen. “I think they have a good tradition. They won a state title in 1986, so it can be done. They have proven they can win it all. The community support here is unbelievable. Anything I have asked for, I’ve been given. The community wants to win, the kids want to win. They just need some consistency. They’ve had four different coaches in four years, which has led to a gap. It takes a few years to get your program up and going. They want somebody for the long haul, and I told them I’ve had the same job for 13 years. I don’t like change, so I told them I plan on staying and building a program that can be competitive not just at the district level, but also the regional and state level.”
Allen inherits a young Tazewell team that has struggled mightily in recent years, going just 5-25 over the past three seasons. The Bulldogs lost 53-0 to Carroll County last year during an 0-10 campaign. One of the things that made Allen attractive to Tazewell was Carroll County’s consistency, with just two losing seasons during the last 13 years.
“That was one of the things I have heard from my interviews to just meeting with new staff and people in the school system here. They all talked about how consistent Carroll was, and no matter what, they did the same thing, didn’t have a lot of turnover in their staff, and consistently won games,” Allen said. “They want something that will be consistent.”
Allen said future Tazewell football teams will be very similar to Carroll’s. The offense will feature a rocket attack much like the Cavaliers, while the defense will be a multiple front.
“The offense will be very, very similar to Carroll County. There will be a few differences, but whether you have a lot of talent or not, it will still be effective because you just have to be fundamentally sound,” Allen said.
While consistency in Carroll’s coaching staff has been a major advantage over the past 13 years, the Cavaliers are losing more than just Allen. Assistant Doug Reavis has left the program to take over as defensive coordinator at Galax High School, while kicking coach Eddie Ayers is retiring to try to start up a kicking game business.
Hale has promoted from within, moving another long-time assistant, Brandon Harner, to defensive coordinator. Former JV head coach Mark Harmon will move up to the varsity to coach the offensive and defensive lines, while JV assistant Russell Smoot will now head the JV program.
“There are really no teaching positions available, so we made all of our adjustments from within out of necessity,” Hale said. “There is still a lot I haven’t discussed with administration yet. We still need an 8th grade coach and a JV assistant.”
Hale feels good about the adjustments the program has made, however. Harner has been with Hale all 14 years he’s been in the program. Harner was a junior football player when Hale took over. After his senior season, Harner began coaching with the Cavaliers, which he has continued the past 12 years.
And while Allen said he’s heard talk that the changes are a sign that something is wrong with the program, nothing could be further from the truth.
“We’ve never had any turnover, but Doug took a job as a defensive coordinator, Eddie was retiring and trying to make money with kicking camps, and I have been applying for head jobs for two or three years now,” Allen said. “It had nothing to do with Carroll at all. It was a very tough decision to leave, but there was no animosity toward Carroll. People may be thinking there is a problem with Carroll’s staff, but there is not.”