BW basketball star Mikey Allen to play football at Fort Hill | Local Sports


CUMBERLAND — Fort Hill football has a new player in the fold this fall, but he’s no stranger to South Cumberland gridirons.

The defending state champions conducted their first practice on Wednesday morning, and the group included Mikey Allen, who spent the last three seasons starring on Bishop Walsh’s basketball team.

It may be Allen’s first season at Fort Hill, but the senior is among familiar company. While Allen hasn’t played football since middle school, his new head coach thinks he’ll fit right in.

“Out here on the practice field today, it was like he never stopped playing,” Sentinels head coach Zack Alkire said. “Showed a lot of speed, a lot of acceleration, good with the ball. He made a couple of nice catches.

“He’ll have a learning curve learning everything again, but we’re very lucky to have feeder systems that do the same things that we do, so he has a background in what we do. He’ll be a quick learner.”

Allen, who holds a Division I offer to play basketball at Maine, officially enrolled at Fort Hill last Tuesday.

If Allen does end up playing D1 basketball, he’d be the city’s first boys basketball player to go straight from high school to D1 since Bishop Walsh standout Bob Kenney was appointed to the Naval Academy in 1968, where he played for three seasons.

Before Kenney, Allegany teammates Steve Vandenberg (Duke) and Dave Toey (Kansas) achieved the feat in 1965.

Fort Hill went a perfect 12-0 last season in Alkire’s first full season at the helm. The campaign had a dream ending, as the Sentinels topped Mountain Ridge, 51-31, for their eighth state title and sixth since 2013.

Allen was a star football player before enrolling at Bishop Walsh to focus on basketball.

The last time Allen graced the football field, the South Cumberland product rushed for 230 yards and two long touchdowns to lead the Personal Best/Hartley’s Pizza Patriots to their fourth consecutive Cumberland Area Youth Football League title. Allen was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Four years have passed since then, but Allen looked the part on Wednesday despite the long layoff.

“First day back, I feel good,” Allen said after practice on Wednesday. “These guys have been my friends since elementary school, so that was one of my main reasons that I wanted to come back. So it was easy, and the chemistry is already there. … My senior year, I wanted to finish what I started in football.

“From not playing in a couple years, I just want to slow my way into my role.”

Allen is likely to see more time on defense initially, Alkire said, as that side of the ball replaces more holes than the Sentinels’ offense.

While Fort Hill does need to fill the production of Area Player of the Year Blake White at fullback — he rushed for 1,353 yards and 21 touchdowns before signing with Towson — the Sentinels return Tavin Willis and Tanner Wertz in the backfield.

Wertz was a second-team All-Area running back after tallying 858 yards on 91 carries (9.4 yards a rush) and nine touchdowns as a junior. Willis, who holds Division I offers from Davidson and Marist, ended with 481 yards on 80 touches (6.0 yards a carry average) and nine scores.

“That doesn’t mean he’s not going to play offense, that would be silly to say, but the learning curve is going to be steeper,” Alkire said. “I know he’ll work hard. I know he’s going to want to be out there both ways.

“He has the athleticism to do so, and I imagine he’s going to have some packages on offense where he’s going to be able to bring some explosiveness to us.”

Area sports fans have become accustomed to Allen’s explosiveness over the past couple of years on the hardwood at Bishop Walsh, especially last season, when Allen had an Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament for the ages.

Allen established himself as a starter as a junior, and he was instrumental in leading the Spartans to two victories at the ACIT for the first time in school history.

The dangerous 3-point threat drilled game-winning, buzzer-beating 3s to down Bishop McNamara and Mount St. Joseph on consecutive nights at Frostburg State.

In Bishop Walsh’s lone loss of the tournament to eventual champion DeMatha, which went on to win a record 26th ACIT, Allen tallied 18 points in the narrow 61-57 defeat.

Yet, Allen decided to return to Fort Hill in the final season of his high school career, and his new teammates and coaches couldn’t be happier.

“It seemed as though everyone has accepted him coming back,” Alkire said. “The kids were all lit up like Christmas trees, especially the kids in the senior class. I know that a lot of them have been on him for three years about coming back.

“We’re happy he’s back. I know the kids are happy he’s back and I hope he’s happy he’s back.”

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