Shayne Allen has a perfect storm of motivation heading into his senior season of football at Newman.
As a senior, he knows it's his last chance to play high school football.
There are expectations that come with playing at a successful program like Newman – and they will be magnified this season, coming off a state championship run in 2013.
And then there is his father.
Patrick Allen, 49, was diagnosed with brain cancer this past April. Whenever Shayne takes the field for the Comets, he'll have his father in mind.
"What I'm taking it as is complete motivation," Allen said. "I don't want to come home off a really bad game and have my dad disappointed in me. I'm going to go out there every single play, work my butt off, and try to make my dad proud – not just my dad, but the whole Newman community.
"My dad has always been that guy that drives me. Now that he has [cancer], it's a lot more magnified, and I feel like I have to step up and do more for our team."
Allen will be one of the more indispensable Comets, as he will rarely leave the field. On offense, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder is the team's top returning wide receiver, with 14 catches for 318 yards and three touchdowns.
Those aren't eye-popping statistics, but solid nonetheless in Newman's ground-heavy attack.
"You may have one, two, or maybe three chances a game to get your passes," Allen said. "When that ball's in the air, it's the most fun thing in the world. It's like it's your time to shine."
When opposing defenses gear up to stop the run, particularly in the red zone, that's when Allen can be especially dangerous. He towers over most defensive backs, making him an even more-inviting target.
"I'm always thinking when that ball's in the air, I've got to go get it," Allen said. "If it's in the red zone, I definitely want to bring it in for a touchdown. If I don't, it's no big deal, because we'll just run it in after that."
The Comets will be breaking in a new quarterback this season, as either senior Trevor Bolin or junior Logan Whitman will replace 2-year starter A.J. Sharp. Allen said he's friends with both, and is confident whichever one wins the job, he'll have a good rapport with him.
"Once we get our pass routes down and build some confidence, we'll just go from there," Allen said.
Allen is also slated to play linebacker this season, with the graduation of Michael Ely, J.P. Neisewander, Mac Olson, and Nate Terveer from last year's squad. Defensive coordinator Tim Nelson is confident he can handle the job.
"We're a little thin at linebacker this year," Nelson said, "and we really need a kid like him, a senior who was a one-way starter last year, to be a two-way starter for us. He's looking forward to that opportunity. He's going to be on the field a lot, and he's tough enough to do it. He believes in himself, after the success he had last year on offense, and that's going to carry over to this year."
Allen will also return punts and kickoffs for the Comets. He harkened back to days gone by when asked about being a part of those often wild and woolly plays.
"At recess when I was a little kid, I remember just running all over the place and having the most fun in the world," Allen said. "I'm really looking forward to becoming a little kid again, running all over the field, and getting some good yards for our team."
Allen is one of 10 Comets who were full or part-time starters a year ago, so the Comets will enter each game with targets on their back. Allen stressed this is a new team, with different personnel and personalities, but he and his teammates will be ready for what lies ahead.
"We're really looking forward to the challenges that are ahead of us," Allen said, "and trying to be as good as last year's team, if not better."
Did you know?
Of Newman's eight team state championships in school history, five of them (1990, 1994, 2004, 2010, 2013) have been in football. The others are in wrestling (1985, 2011) and boys cross country (2009).