When asked to describe Jerzee Allentini, Flowery Branch football coach Ben Hall didn’t identify size as the most imposing feature of the Falcons starting linebacker.
It is his intelligence — a keen eye for the game — that trumps everything else.
It’s what helped the 5-foot-6, 170-pound Allentini land a spot on the varsity squad as a freshman, and it gave him a small edge as he worked his way into the starting lineup earlier this season.
“You know, you’ll have great students in the classroom, but football doesn’t make a lot of sense to them at times,” Hall said. “Jerzee is one who is a true student of the game. He works to understand what we’re asking him to do.
“He does it to the best of his ability,” the second-year coach added. “He is truly the epitome of an overachiever.”
And when a number of key starters fell victim to an injury-laced stretch of games, Allentini was one of a few names called to action. He picked up more responsibilities at fullback halfway through the season, and last week he was asked to make the sudden switch to middle linebacker in place of an injured Connor Mayfield (ankle). To little surprise to Hall, Allentini adapted.
Despite being in the unfamiliar position, Hall said Allentini consistently finds himself in the right place, at the right time. That was very much the case last Friday night against Denmark, in a Region 7-4A contest that carried big playoff seeding implications.
With both teams vying for a No. 3 playoff seed, Allentini proved a vital piece to both sides of the ball for No. 9 Flowery Branch (8-2, 4-2 Region 7-4A) in the 28-19 victory. He racked up four solo tackles while assisting four more, and was one of two Falcon defenders to pick off Denmark quarterback Ben Whitlock. At fullback, Allentini added some big runs between the tackles for the Falcons, twice moving the chains on a pivotal fourth-quarter drive to help seal the game.
“Anytime you have a young kid thrust into a position change midseason, that can be tough, but (Jerzee) did an outstanding job for us,” Hall said. “On top of that, he executed what we asked him to do offensively … and he graded well. He’s just a heady player.”
Allentini credited his teammate Mayfield for last week’s success — providing some advice at practice while stressing the importance of staying hydrated. On his fourth-quarter interception, Allentini said he simply followed his assignment as he hauled in a ball that was tipped near the line of scrimmage.
“We had a blitz called, so one of our safeties, Chandler (Dial-Watson), he blitzed and the quarterback threw it, tipped it right up [and I came up with it]...Nothing special,” he said.
Allentini also carried eight times for 38 yards with a 1-yard touchdown in the Falcons’ regular-season finale, the majority of his production coming during the most pivotal point of the game. He churned out gains of 11 and 10 yards on the Falcons final drive to twice move the chains and keep the clock ticking. It came after defensive end Cody Inman fell on a Danes’ fumble inside Falcons territory, which ended a potential last-ditch touchdown drive by Denmark.
Allentini’s contributions were more than enough to help the ninth-ranked Falcons capture third place in the 7-4A, and the No. 3 playoff seed for the Class 4A tournament. For those reasons, Allentini is the Times football Player of the Week.
Allentini, who saw a few reps at fullback as a freshman, has fully settled in, now breaking the goal line for touchdowns in back-to-back games. Against West Hall on Oct. 26, he muscled and reached across the plane for his first varsity score and hauled in a pair of receptions for 18 yards in the passing game.
“He’s built low to the ground, and in that fullback position, with the quick-hitting plays he kind of gets lost in the mix there,” Hall said. “He just has a knack for finding seams and gaining yards, and he’s improving with every carry.”
For Allentini, both positions seem to go hand-in-hand.
“It’s kind of like the linebacker of the offense,” Allentini said. “Really your job is to hit people and do your assignment, do your job to help everybody else — kind of like, being a part of one whole aspect from it.”
Now winners of two-straight, the Falcons have managed to pick up steam as they’ve welcomed back those who have been hurt the last few weeks.
“They’ve demonstrated ...resiliency, and that is the characteristic we look for in a football team,” Hall said. “Nobody’s made excuses about anyone not being able to play. The next man stepped up, and they’ve performed well enough to win these two ball games.”
Even with Mayfield expected back for the first-round playoff game at No. 2 seed Ridgeland this Friday night, Allentini should still be in the mix for the Falcons as the program seeks to build on its recent playoff success.
Last year, the Falcons used a goal-line stand to edge Kell, 21-14, for their first postseason victory since 2011.
“It’s a lot of buzz (in the locker room),” Allentini said. “We’re excited to play in the state playoffs. Flowery Branch hasn’t made a big run in the playoffs in a while, so we want to be a part of a big legacy going into it, and we feel like we have the team to do it, especially with the seniors we have.”