Jason Allen may have been the most obvious candidate for the Aynor football coach job ever.
Sometimes, obvious just makes sense.
Allen, a Blue Jackets graduate and longtime assistant, was formally approved to take over the program late Monday night, nearly three weeks after a search committee informed him he would be the choice.
“I don’t have any head coaching experience, but I have the best kind of experience, which is knowing what it takes to be successful here,” Allen said. “I know how to do it. I think they recognized that. I would hate to see someone come in here and and try to do something we can’t do.”
Most notably, Allen was instrumental in some of the implementation and execution of the program’s Hammer offense, the tight-knit, run-based scheme that allowed Aynor to start winning at a better clip.
He most recently served as the team’s offensive coordinator under now-former coach Jody Jenerette, and he has been on the staff in some role since returning to the school to begin teaching in 2003. In that time, he was part of four two-win seasons but also six playoff berths and the the peak two-year span of 2012-2013 - when the Blue Jackets won 15 total games.
Needless to say, he understands his new job is not only about wins and losses, but about a commitment to a community. Although Aynor hasn’t always been successful on the field, it has bred longevity in its head coaches.
Allen is just the fourth coach at the school since 1977. Jenerette was in his job for 13 years. Prior to that Marty Jacobs (1999-2004) and Dave Maness (1977-1998) held down the fort. Among the other Horry County programs, including the two newest high schools (St. James and Carolina Forest), only Conway has had as few as four head coaches.
Allen expects to have a similar run as his predecessors.
“They’re going to have to roll me out of here,” he said. “This is home. I don’t feel like I’m working. It’s about building family and building culture. It’s about molding young men. I think I could do that for a long time.”
Allen will be charged with continuing much of what Jenerette was able to do, which was bring Aynor back to respectability. The Blue Jackets went to the playoffs six times during Jenerette’s tenure, with all of those postseason trips falling in the last decade.
When he resigned in March, the school posted the position and conducted a full search for his replacement. Principal Michael McCracken and newly hired Athletics Director Josh Spivey spearheaded that committee. In the end, they came back to the guy they believed was best suited to keep things moving in the same direction.
“He rose to the top because of his offensive and defensive coordinating experiences, his knowledge of the game, his knowledge of our school and community and his passion for Aynor High School,” McCracken said. “Coach Allen is very passionate about the game of football, loves his job, and loves our school and community. He works extremely hard to connect with our students both on and off the field. He will do an extremely good job uniting our school and community behind the game of football.”
Allen gradated from Aynor in 1997 before earning a Bachelor’s degree from Clemson. Since returning to his alma mater, he has taught world history courses, some at the Advanced Placement level, while also working as an assistant or head coach for the football, basketball, baseball, soccer, track and boys golf teams.
He said his first job as head coach is expanding numbers, something he will have to embrace the youth program Jenerette started in order to achieve. From the first time football players in Aynor don pads, they are now taught the Hammer offense.
Now, though, they’ll be learning it as a way to one day play for Allen.
“We want to just continue what we’ve built for the last 13 years, but really the last eight years with the offense that we’ve implemented,” he said. “We want to see it keep going.”