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ATHLETE OF THE WEEK : An All-Purpose Man at Saugus, Allen Likes Punt Returns Best

November 04, 1987|VINCE KOWALICK

What does Lamark Allen do best?

The 5-11, 187-pound Saugus tailback excels at running with the football. He racked up 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a 37-22 win over Burroughs of Ridgecrest on Friday night. Allen's performance, which included touchdown runs of 66 and 31 yards, raised his season totals to 832 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Allen, a senior, also excels at catching the ball. "Marcus," as he is known to teammates, had three receptions for 58 yards against Burroughs, raising his season totals to 19 and 319, or an average of 16 yards every time he swings out of the backfield and makes a catch.

He also has shown talent on kickoff returns. Allen isn't a member of the Centurions' kickoff return team, but when Darrell Davis injured his knee, Allen filled in nicely, returning a fourth-quarter kick against Burroughs 92 yards for a touchdown.

Excuse him if he sounds a bit like Bo Jackson, but those activities seem like a hobby to Allen, who claims his No. 1 avocation is returning punts.

"Most people say they're dangerous, but I like them," Allen said. "It's not like in the pros or college where the kicks are 67 yards. It's more like 40 yards and the linemen are really close."

Standing alone, looking skyward for the ball while defenders charge in for the tackle, a punt returner is a portrait of vulnerability. But Coach Dick Flaherty claims the punt return at Saugus is a well-choreographed operation.

"We do a really good job on punts," he said. "If we do our job, there's nobody within 15 yards of Lamark."

It wasn't so during the Centurions' 0-10 season last year. Lamark was a marked man.

"A lot of the time I was running for my life," Allen said. "But there aren't as many guys in my face this year. There's a lot more running room. Every time I get the ball there seems to be running room."

Allen had room enough for punt returns of 29 and 42 yards against Burroughs. Include his kickoff run and Allen amassed 163 yards in kick returns, 134 in the fourth quarter.

Although precise punt return statistics are not kept at Saugus, Flaherty said that Allen has had seven or eight returns exceeding 35 yards this season.

"He has a great feel for where people are in the field and where they're going to take their shots," Flaherty said. "Most instances, you don't get a real good shot at him."

Said Allen: "This year we have better blocking. There are holes everywhere."

Allen has attracted the attention of Arizona, New Mexico and USC. Once he becomes a Division I player, however, Flaherty believes Allen will try his hand at something different.

"I think they'll look at him as a defensive back," he said. "He's outstanding."

Allen has two interceptions this year, but plays only about half the time in the secondary.

"You gotta rest him some time," Flaherty said.

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