By John Orrell, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Meet the new coach. Same as the old coach. Almost.
When highly successful and much admired Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS) varsity football head coach Justin McKay resigned his post in May to accept the same position at Worcester’s St. Peter-Marian High, it was stunner to many Tomahawk fans who watched the team earn a berth in the Division 2 District championship game last fall. Few saw this coming leaving many questions to be answered as to who and how to fill the void.
Enter 27 year-old Taylor Allen who has coached the varsity tight ends and junior varsity for the past two seasons under McKay. Allen is a disciple of his former coach’s methods and teaching so look for a lot of similarities when the 2017 campaign opens next month, but don’t expect a carbon copy of McKay. Allen has his own approach to leading the team and the similarities and dissimilarities will be evident right from opening kickoff.
“I plan to focus on a faster pace of play offensively,” Allen explained. “Defensively it stays the same with my brother Mark being the defensive coordinator. He knows what he’s doing on that side of the ball. The only thing that’s really going to change is on offense although some things will stay since we’ve had a lot of success doing those things. I expect to run a few more passing plays. We’re going to have to play to the strength of our skill players.”
Allen has dreamed of ascending to the head coach level but not even he could have predicted that it would come so soon and so close to home. He is a Westborough resident and a special education aide at ARHS so the close proximity and the familiarity of the school and the football program were a huge draw in accepting the position.
“The first thing I did was talk to my wife and had a conversation with her which was really a short conversation because she really wanted me to go for it,” Allen said. “It’s always been a dream of mine to be a head coach. I didn’t know it would come this soon. I kind of lucked out there. I had all the family support I needed to go for it and things just kind of fell into place.
“I think continuity is a major aspect in terms of continuing the success that we’ve had. Me knowing the kids already is a major step forward because with new hires they can be walking in and not know any of the kids. That’s probably my biggest strength is knowing what the kids can do and providing a scheme that they can flourish in.”
Allen is a graduate of Endicott College where he was a standout as a tight end and long snapper. He’s the son of the late Holy Cross College head football coach Dan Allen who passed away in 2004 so there is a rich pedigree of successful football in the family. There was an “almost situation” for Allen after his graduation from Endicott that could have changed things forever, that being a stint in the National Football League with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Allen received many calls from Jaguars personnel during and after the 2012 draft and nearly signed, but an abundance of players already on the roster as tight ends and long snappers left no room. It was a disappointment to come so close and he has moved on but still leaves the door ajar just a bit in case an NFL team comes calling and needs a long snapper, one of the toughest positions to fill.
“Long snapping is like riding a bike so I think I could still hop back on,” Allen explained. “In the professional sports world, especially football, it’s all about who you know. I have no regrets overall here at Algonquin because I’m in a position where I get to impact lives and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Looking ahead to his first season calling the shots for the Tomahawks has Allen excited and anxious to get the season underway. Despite a huge amount of players lost to graduation, he still feels that the team has the potential to go far in the always-tough Mid-Wach A league.
“The 22 guys who just graduated took up all of the varsity time so my JV guys are stepping it up into the varsity role,” Allen said. “Having that experience on the JV level will help not only me but them because they know my coaching style and what’s expected.
“I’m thrilled with our freshman class coming in. I like what they’ve been doing but we’re focusing on our juniors and seniors now. They know what’s expected of them. Seeing how to win football games the past two and three years, they know how to win because they’ve been a part of it. From what I’ve seen so far this summer at various tournaments, we’re going to be a fast, physical team that’s going to be hard to stop.
“The sideline to me is huge because if you don’t have players who are buying in to what we’re doing, what is it for? That’s the biggest thing that I harp on. Everyone says there’s three phases to this game—offense, defense and special teams. But sideline is another huge aspect of the game that needs to be mastered because those are the guys you practice with, the guys you’re spending time with more than your actual family at home.
“I’ve always been a guy who feeds off urgency. I want to get things done and I want them done fast and in the right way and if we can do those things, there’s a good chance we can make some noise in this league this year.”