After a short run by Qwontrel Walker on Friday night, Stillwater High senior quarterback Caleb Allen completed his first pass as a varsity starter.
He found star wideout Steven Brown for a 5-yard pass. It was Brown’s first reception after coming back from a season-ending injury he suffered in the 2019 playoff opener.
Allen followed it with another completion. And another one. And another one.
His first four passes as a senior were complete to three different receivers. It was a very good start for the 6-foot-3 signal caller who’s taking over after Gunnar Gundy threw for more than 7,400 yards and helped the Pioneers win 32 games in the past three years.
“For the first game starting ever, I think I did pretty good, honestly,” Allen said. “I had a lot of fun. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a while. I’m still getting used to all of the varsity stuff. It’s super fun.
“I was pretty nervous. Before the first snap, I was getting some of those butterflies. But once I took the first snap, I felt good after that.”
SHS football coach Tucker Barnard was quite proud of Allen’s performance.
“I thought he looked really good Friday,” Barnard said. “If you can get numbers like that on your first try out of the box, that’s pretty good. I thought he had a great day. He’s going to get better and better. To make your first start against a team like Santa Fe, that’s a tough situation and he handled it really well.”
When the dust settled at Pioneer Stadium, Stillwater earned a season-opening win over Edmond Santa Fe. Allen completed 20 of 29 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown.
His one mistake was a first half interception in which he threw into double coverage while attempting to find Brown down the Pioneers’ sideline early in the second quarter. Allen bounced back by completing 11of 13 passes during the remainder of the contest.
“To be honest, with the guys on our team, I think we’ve been able to build a culture where we’re able to fight through adversity,” Barnard said. “He’s been able to watch and grow. If he would have been a sophomore, he might not have some of that natural confidence he’s built now as a senior. We all make mistakes and we move on. We try to do better next time.”
Last year, Allen threw for only 204 yards on 15 of 30 completions in his limited minutes during the second half of numerous games that were all but over with the Pioneers winning easily. Despite few and far between chances to shine during the past two years as the back-up quarterback, Allen learned from those moments.
“Playing late in games gave me a feel for what varsity is like, how I’m supposed to play and how much different the competition is. It taught me a lot,” Allen said.
“In practice, I would run the scout team, and I would always watch Gunnar, too. He would teach me a lot about the varsity team. The coaches would talk to me about me being the next person up so I would always have to be ready. So, I was always working hard.”
Playing quarterback has always been Allen’s role on a football team, dating back to third grade. It’s been a position he’s enjoyed for many years, even if he was much smaller and shorter, as he jokingly admitted.
“My dad played football for a long time and I would always play catch with my dad,” Allen said. “When I first started, I tried quarterback and learned to love it. I’ve been able to gain weight and get a lot taller. My arm strength got a lot better. I’ve just tried to get better each year.”
Allen has continued to grow – mentally and physically – through the years and even more so since joining the high school program. He led the 2017 freshman team to a solid record before helping the junior varsity squad to back-to-back great seasons as a sophomore and junior.
Now, the varsity team is his with another Gundy – sophomore Gage – waiting in the balance to take over the varsity team in the future. It’s a role Allen is happy to take on and see if he can lead the Pioneers to that coveted gold ball.
He has the backing of his coaches.
“He’s had a great opportunity to grow as a quarterback before having the load on his shoulders,” Barnard said. “I guess that’s a knife that cuts both ways. I’m sure if he would have had more game experience, he’s probably even better than what he is right now. But, he’s also had that time to grow and make mistakes in JV games where maybe the pressure isn’t quite as high.
“I think what you saw Friday night is a well-adjusted quarterback that understands and knows how to make good decisions. I’ve been bragging on Gunnar for the last couple years and his decision making and it was all well deserved,” Barnard said. “But, Caleb is coming is coming in a first-year starter and he’s making a lot of really good choices with the ball and where to go with it.”
After this year, Allen is hoping to play college football. In May, he received his first offer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
A couple weeks later, Southwestern Oklahoma State University offered Allen a scholarship to play football.
“It really means a lot,” Allen said. “It makes me a lot more confident and makes me feel a lot better. Having offers like that without even starting yet is just really awesome, honestly.”
Allen and the Pioneers will be playing Friday night in Mustang. The game will begin at 7 p.m.
Follow Jimmy Gillispie on Twitter @jgillispie_stw for Stillwater High coverage and live updates from Friday’s game.