Hattiesburg High School junior running back Drexlan Allen hadn’t been overlooked in the scheme of the Tigers’ 2017 football season.
Coming into Friday night’s South State championship game, Allen had rushed for 499 yards and 14 touchdowns in 13 games, averaging a healthy 5.2 yards a pop on the ground.
But with junior quarterback Jarod Conner dominating the stat sheet, both passing and running the football, and senior running back Fabian Franklin the de facto starter in the backfield, Allen might have been a bit overshadowed in the public eye.
But not after Friday.
In the Tigers’ most important football game in nearly a generation, Allen rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries to help power Hattiesburg to a 33-22 victory over Laurel High School in front am estimated 9,500 to 10,000 packed into and ringing D.I. Patrick Stadium.
“We did it as a team,” Allen said, taking in the postgame celebration that eddied and flowed around him and his teammates. “It was a team effort.
“We just did what Coach told us to do. We just executed what Coach told us. He said if we do that, we’d come out with the win. That’s what did it.”
What Hattiesburg (14-0) did Friday was pound the football at Laurel on the ground.
The Tigers rolled up 361 yards rushing, with Conner putting up a career night with 228 yards on 39 carries. Allen and Conner combined for all but 11 yards of Hattiesburg’s net rushing yardage.
HHS coach Tony Vance said he wasn’t surprised in the least at Allen’s performance.
“He’s done that all year long,” Vance said. “He’s probably the most underrated player on our football team. He did an excellent job for us (Friday) and he did (Friday) exactly what he’s been doing all year for us. When his number’s called, he produces.”
Allen produced especially when Hattiesburg got down close to the goal line.
He capped a 69-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown run that doubled Hattiesburg’s lead to 12-3 at halftime.
He scored the first touchdown of the second half on a 5-yard run to help push the Tigers ahead 20-3, and scored Hattiesburg’s final points on a 1-yard run in the final quarter for a 33-16 lead with 3:38 left to play.
Now, Hattiesburg has a day or two of rest before hitting the practice field to prepare to meet defending Class 5A state champion West Point High School. The 14-0 Green Wave, who has lost only one game in the past two seasons, defeated Olive Branch High School 39-6 Friday to win the North State title.
Allen was at a loss trying to grasp the Tigers’ first trip to play for a state title since 1998.
“It’s just so much, you can’t explain this, I promise you,” Allen said.