Jeremiah Allen

As a running back, Jeremiah Allen is one of several options on offense for the football team at Castlewood High School.

As a middle linebacker, Jeremiah Allen is one of a kind for the Blue Devils.

“We are lucky to have enough running backs that we could do without him on offense if we had to,” said Castlewood coach Chris Lark. “On defense, that is another story. He is all over the field. If he isn’t in on the tackle he is close by.”

The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Allen has racked up a team-high 52 stops this season to go along with his 299 rushing yards for one of Southwest Virginia’s surprise teams and will try to continue his output tonight as Castlewood (3-2, 1-1) hosts Twin Springs (4-2, 0-1) in a crucial Cumberland District game for both teams.

Nobody knew what to expect from Castlewood when the season began.

Coming off a 3-7 season, Lark was hired as the team’s head coach in late-June and had to get to work quickly to acclimate himself with his new crew.

A 41-6 season-opening loss to Patrick Henry wasn’t a sign of things to come for the Blue Devils.

“We knew going into week one that we would be facing a very good Patrick Henry team,” Allen said. “It was a building game for us. We took that beating and have been using it for fuel ever since.”

It really started clicking the next week as Castlewood beat Honaker for just the second time since 1992.

“Beating Honaker wasn’t just huge for the team, it was huge for the community and the school as a whole,” Lark said. “It gave our kids and student body a sense of pride and belief in what we are trying to do here at Castlewood.”

The Blue Devils are doing pretty well and have already equaled last season’s win total.

Candler Dudley is the leading rusher.

Collen Dudley is the capable quarterback.

M.J. Carter is a playmaker.

Ben Neece is the second-leading tackler.

Jacob Vance has snagged two interceptions.

“I’ve been telling everyone since I took the job, how smart these kids are,” Lark said. “It blows my mind how they are able to absorb what we have fed them offensively and defensively and they are able to perform. They’ve taken the responsibility to learn scouting reports and watch film and it has paid off.”

This is the first head-coaching gig for Lark, a 1991 graduate of Gate City.

He had served as an assistant for 15 years at schools in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida, before taking the helm at Castlewood.

“Coach Lark has pushed us to be the best that we can be,” Allen said. “He has brought all of us together and created a family, something that has been lacking in previous seasons.”

It helps having a player like Allen in the fold as well.

“His intelligence and willingness to do anything the team needs to do [is impressive],” Lark said. “Jeremiah can play all the running back positions in our offense as well as all the linebacker positions within our defense. He rarely comes off the field.” When it comes to running the ball, Allen is averaging 8.1 yards per carry

“We knew he would be a big help to us defensively,” Lark said. “We didn’t know his true value to us until we struggled early offensively against Thomas Walker [in a 14-12 loss on Sept. 13]. In only three quarters of action, he carried the ball for 141 yards and two scores. We knew at that point we had a special athlete.”

Which side of the ball does Allen prefer?

“I would have to say defense is where I am the strongest,” Allen said. “I know what has to be done and I trust my instincts.”

Allen enjoys winning most of all and the Blue Devils will try to notch another win tonight on homecoming. Castlewood has yet to win on its home field in 2019.

“The team and I are pumped for homecoming this Friday,” Allen said. “We just need to clock in and take care of business on Friday night.”

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