In its 12th season under head coach Brian Allen, Crystal Lake South won the IHSA Class 2A state championship with a victory in penalty kicks against Peoria Notre Dame in the title game. The Gators were FVC champions and went 22-2-3 on the season.
It marks only the third team state title in school history. South won four regional titles in its first 11 years under Allen, but never advanced past the sectional semifinals.
After the historic season, Allen has been named the 2018 Northwest Herald Boys Soccer Coach of the Year.
He recently spoke with the Northwest Herald about the state run, “Angry Allen” and his biggest coaching influences.
During the state championship shootout, you sat by yourself at the far end of the bench, barely able to watch. What were you thinking in that moment?
Allen: I don’t even know if I remember specifics about it. It was probably just, “Let the guys show their final moment of growth here.” We had come from behind the previous penalty kick shootout [in the semifinals]. You have the state championship on the line. I just wanted to let my coaches soak it in, and I tried to remain calm for the guys and show some confidence in them.
You were a goalkeeper when you played. What did you think of PKs back then?
Allen: As a goalkeeper, if you’re afraid of PKs, then you probably lose that advantage. I was probably similar to Oscar [Estrada] in that when a penalty kick situation stepped up, it was just an opportunity, moments to go and show what you’re capable of. The shooter is supposed to score, so as a goalkeeper you go with your gut, you make a decision, you look for little things you can find, some sort of advantage.
Who are your biggest coaching influences?
Allen: My assistant Tony Allen (no relation). He was actually my goalkeeper coach when I played in high school [at Rolling Meadows]. That’s formulated now into a 20-plus-year close friendship. To share this moment with him is something that was super special. I got into coaching because of him. He was such a positive influence on me when I was a player. I wanted to follow his footsteps. To have him on my staff and have those roles kind of reversed, where we’re able to work hand-in-hand, is truly special. (Tony Allen is the former head coach at Marian Central, where he earned the 2003 Northwest Herald Boys Soccer Coach of the Year award.)
What are your biggest coaching pet peeves?
Allen: A lack of pregame focus, especially in games that the kids know each other. Those are always the ones that I dread because they’re going to go say hi and joke around. I was the type of player that was locked in the minute you start getting ready. Afterward, sure, go shake hands. And I’ve gotten better, but it’s still difficult for me to see some of the guys get all buddy-buddy before a game. That’s just not how I was wired.
Do the guys on the team have any nicknames for you?
Allen: They might have something I don’t know about. “Angry Allen” is one that occasionally will pop out. I’ll joke, “Make sure Angry Allen doesn’t come out today.” We didn’t see him too often this year, so that’s a good thing.
Who on the team does the best impersonation of you?
Allen: I don’t know if one has ever been attempted. At least not in front of me. Probably for fear of repercussion.
For fear of Angry Allen?
Allen: (Laughs) Exactly.
What’s your funniest exchange with a referee over the years?
Allen: There’s one that comes to mind a few years ago in a penalty kick shootout. Our keeper made a save but got called for leaving too soon. I got a little animated, being a goalkeeper, trying to demonstrate what was allowed and using the sideline as the line. That’s one.
My younger, angrier Allen days, I was known from time to time for tossing a clipboard in the air or against the fence behind me. Those days have simmered down.