Alan McAllister began his football career in eastern PA, but finishes as a Warren Dragon. Photos courtesy Beth McAllister.

From East to West: A Unique Journey Brought Warren’s McAllister to East/West Game

March 22, 2023

WARREN, Pa. – The last thing Alan McAllister thought he’d be doing as a high school football player was playing against kids he played with in pee wee.

It’s one of those things that only happens when you take the journey McAllister took to find himself in the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association East/West Game.

It’s a journey that began 300 miles to the southeast, and long before McAllister was a standout on the offensive and defensive lines for Warren.

McAllister grew up in Montgomery County but had ties to Warren County through his grandparents.

“My in-laws were originally from here,” McAllister’s mother, Beth, said. “And they moved out when my father-in-law went into the Navy. Then their homestead came available to rent. I had lost my job. My husband lost his job. I started driving a school bus, he opened a remote business. We had our summers, and as long as he had internet connection, we could travel. So we started spending our summers out here.”

Soon, the family decided they wanted to do more than just spend their summers in Warren County.

“In 2014 him and I started really pushing to live here,” Beth said. “So we went home for about two weeks and pretty much packed up our lives and moved back out (here). We had our own trial period and then we ended up a year later selling our home back east.”

For 11-year-old Alan, the change from Montgomery County to Youngsville was stark.

“It was different,” Alan said. “You come from houses being on top of each other. Definitely a difference to go from having 100 plus kids in my class to 60. Traveling in a youth league to playing amongst the same three teams in Youngsville. It’s definitely a different impact of it.”

Of course, Alan’s football career began out east as well, thanks to a not-so-gentle nudge from his dad.

“When I was younger, it was a lot of ‘You’re not just gonna sit at home, you’re gonna play something, you’re gonna do something,'” Alan said. “I think I tried almost anything early on. I swam, I played soccer, baseball. Football kind of just stuck with me though. I dabbled in wrestling too. But my dad was kind of a big influence and he was kind of ‘I’m going to go all in with whatever you want to do.'”

As Beth describes it, dad was there every step of the way. Whether as the official coach or just helping out, he was always pushing Alan to get better.

“His dad gave him every bit of knowledge and skill he had as a player and he is always saying Alan is 10 times the player he was,” Beth said.

Alan McAllister spent his junior high seasons with the Youngsville Eagles. Photos courtesy Beth McAllister.

While moving from one part of the state to another isn’t all that uncommon, the situation Alan found himself in just three years later only added to the uniqueness of his story. In 2017, he was part of what would eventually become the last junior high football team at Youngsville. Alan’s varsity career was spent entirely with the Dragons.

“Coming from junior high, it was a lot of this is like last Youngsville football team,” Alan said. “A lot of high expectations. Freshman year, I kind of came in with a chip on my shoulder.”

On top of the transition to the next level of football, Alan was coming off a severe leg injury as well.

“I had broken my leg the year prior,” Alan said. “Actually wrestling getting ready for states. And I snapped my leg right above my ankle. And I think I was cleared the first day of heat acc(limation).”

He played his entire freshman season with a plate and screws in his leg from the injury. Well, almost the entire season.

“When Alan broke his leg before football in wrestling he opted to leave the plate and screws in for the season,” Beth said. “He was told he ‘could’ break a screw. He would know he did by a moment of intense pain and then he would be fine. Every medical professional we talked to we were told ‘that’s impossible, I’ve never seen it.’ After the season ended he had them removed. He did indeed break a screw the last home game that season.”

Photo courtesy Beth McAllister.

Due to the injury, Alan gave up wrestling for a time. Something that was hard to square with one of his closest mentors.

“Paul Clough he was wrestling coaching in Youngsville and someone I really looked up to,” Alan said. “Losing him (Clough passed away in 2022) sucks bad. But he got me into lifting. He got me into the whole, ‘You know, you can’t just focus on a football.’ There’s wrestling. I mean, you get faster, you can play, lose weight. Do all that. He was . . . I love my dad, but he was kind of a second dad, took me in as one of his own. And he really helped me in a lot of aspects of my life.”

After all that, Alan’s sophomore season was shaded by the ever-present cloud of COVID, plus the addition of another temporary co-op midway through the season.

“I think that year was a very true test of the team’s adversity and how we could overcome things,” Alan said. “It was a curveball, but it was also I guess, God’s way of making it so you know, we’re prepared for life.”

Alan transferred to Warren as a student prior to the start of his junior year. The transition, he said, was “smooth.”

“I never got that ‘Oh, you’re from Youngsville stereotype,'” Alan said. “It was just okay, you’re Warren now.”

Through all of these transitions, Alan decided he wanted to play at the next level. Unsure of the process, he began navigating his recruitment on his own.

“(I was) kind of trying to feel my way through the recruiting process and learning how to get film in front of coaches and stuff,” Alan said. “I really wasn’t heavily recruited by anyone.”

“Coach (Andrew) Morrison was a huge help putting film together for him at the end of each season,” Beth added.

In the end, it was a teammate who helped set Alan on a path that would lead him to choose PennWest Edinboro.

“Edinboro was the first real DII school to talk to me and they actually didn’t even talk to me first because Nick Pennucci, they were talking to him,” Alan said. “They were talking to him, he dropped my name, and they contacted me. We got to talking and ended up with an offer from them.”

Alan plans to major in nursing, get his RN, then explore other options.

“I’ve always really wanted to be in the medical field,” Alan said. “For the longest time, I wanted to be a vet. But it just kind of worked its way with family members and everything kind of going into becoming an RN and then branching off. I don’t plan on staying RN forever. I plan on just kind of getting into the field that way, and then branching off and doing other things.”

In addition to the East/West game, Alan was also selected to play in the annual Big 30 game. He had to decline the Big 30 invitation as the Scots will be in camp by that point.

Still, the East/West game looms as the final stop in his high school football journey. And it’s appropriate that he’ll be facing some of the same players he began that journey with.

“It’s cool to think that like, I’m gonna go back down and play against some of those people from those towns that I grew up with,” Alan said.

But will there be any doubt about who he’s representing in that game?

“I’m coming from Warren,” Alan said. “I’m playing for the West and I’m going against the East.”

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