It was a hot day in late August during the first week of summer camp for Freeport. Priority No. 1 for the No. 1 seed in Conference I was replacing 2008 All-Long Island quarterback Erick Lapice. Four candidates took turns in the QB drills under the critical eye of coach Russ Cellan. Kevin Allen was not one of them.
Three months later, it was Allen taking all the snaps and Freeport taking home the trophy as Long Island Class I champs.
Allen, an elite running back, became the emergency quarterback after the Red Devils' first playoff game, when starter Paul Ketchens went down with a broken hand. How'd that experiment turn out?
In three games running from a new position in Cellan's celebrated spread offense, Allen's numbers were staggering: 292 yards and four touchdowns against Baldwin; 242 yards and three touchdowns against Farmingdale; 309 yards and three touchdowns (plus three TD passes) against Floyd.
The latter performance was particularly spectacular when you consider that the Colonials entered the LIC with perhaps the toughest, quickest defense in Suffolk.
Then you throw in Allen's 309-yard, six-TD effort in the Red Devils' first playoff win over Oceanside and you get a full season's worth of greatness in four games: 1,095 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
"We've never depended so much on one player in the history of our program," Cellan said after the 38-14 LIC victory over Floyd last Saturday night at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium. "We knew he was running the ball, everyone else knew it and he still did it. That's not easy to do."
In 2009, Allen finished with a Nassau County single-season record of 35 touchdowns, shattering the mark of 29 set by Amos Zereoue of Mepham in 1993. But he was far more excited about winning his first LIC. "I was leaving everything I had on the field. This was the last chance to win it all," Allen said after the title game.
The other facet of Freeport's title run, its third under Cellan, was a fast, opportunistic defense that forced five turnovers against Floyd. "This was a great day for the defense," said an overjoyed Michael Groover, who made two interceptions from his cornerback spot.
The defensive mainstay, however, was Corey Bateman, of whom Cellan said, "He's the best defensive end on Long Island." Bateman forced two fumbles in the title game and took part in six tackles. He was the team's defensive leader all season, quick to the ball and a hard hitter. "I can't even describe how I feel," said Bateman, a senior who wanted to not only hang onto the moment but also the LIC trophy, which he clutched to his chest.
All the Red Devils were enjoying their moment under the lights. They'd come a long way from the heat of summer practice, back to a time when Kevin Allen wasn't even on the quarterback depth chart. Now they were all No. 1.