For the last two summers, Chambers Academy’s Braxton and Payton Allen spent day after day working together in their grandfathers’ scrapyard just north of LaFayette while covered in grease and sweating out another hot Alabama day. Friday’s scene will be a much more enjoyable one for the Allens, who will look to get some more work done in this year’s AISA Class A state championship game.
Payton and Braxton – who are second cousins – have been two key pieces on a Rebels’ team that has rolled over most of the competition in 2019 and sits one win away from their second consecutive state championship. The road to this moment hasn’t been an easy one for either Allen, as Braxton was called upon to take over as the team’s top tailback this fall and Payton was asked to run much more at quarterback than he ever has before.
“We're able to do a lot of things with Braxton and Payton because we're so good up front. Those two guys are definitely huge,” said Chambers head coach Jason Allen, Payton’s father. “They're great kids, first and foremost. Their teammates love them. There's no jealousy or pride. There's none of the things you usually see with a lot of success. I know our line doesn't mind giving everything they've got for those two kids because they appreciate it.
“They're great kids and great football players. They really complement each other well, and both have had fantastic years.”
Chambers' bruiser back
Braxton had established himself as one of the Rebels’ best players in 2018, but it was on the other side of the football. The then-junior was never far away from the ball carrier last fall, and he ended the year with 112 total tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks and three interceptions.
Once CJ Lyons and Jordan Gillespie graduated, however, it was time for Braxton to step up on offense. Braxton understood playing at linebacker and running back would be a tall order, but it wasn’t one he was unwilling to take on.
“I've known the offense forever, so it wasn't like it was just this brand-new thing. I knew what I needed to do and stuff like that. It was just focusing on trying to get better every single day for the team,” Braxton said. “It's about being fit, first of all. You've got to be conditioned well and mentally tough, man. You've just got to say, 'I know I'm tired, but I can't be tired right now.'”
Judging from the numbers, Braxton has yet to let being tired slow him down. With 12 games now in the books, Braxton has 1,450 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns and is a huge reason why Chambers is averaging 43.1 points per game on offense.
Of course, Payton can say the same thing.
After being a pass-first player in 2018, Payton broke out a new dimension to his game for his junior year. In addition to throwing for 1,259 yards and 16 touchdowns, Payton has taken 161 carries for 1,537 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Payton pointed to the departures of Lyons and Gillespie as being part of why now was the right time to run.
“We had a lot of backs last year that graduated. I felt like I was more ready this year to run the football,” Payton said. “Our team motto the whole summer and this whole year was, 'Second mile.' It was about everybody going the second mile and doing more than what the coach and what regular standards require of you.”
One of the most important aspects for the Chambers offense this year has been the read-option, a play on which communication and trust between Payton and Braxton is incredibly important. Their relationship throughout childhood has been crucial in building both of those things, as has all those grueling days the last two years working for Frank and Walter Allen.
Playing together every year since sixth grade has been useful, but those long, hot summer days spent together have taken their connection to another level.
“It’s built a bond between us. I feel like I know him better from that,” Payton said.
“We'd start at 8 o'clock in the morning, and you really never knew what you were going to do that day,” Braxton said. “Me and Payton have always been friends and pretty much brothers. Everybody thinks we're brothers anyway. We might as well be.”
Now, the duo is one win away from once again going from the scrapyard to the state championship stage.