NEWTON, N.C — The prep varsity football season officially ended for all Catawba County teams on April 16, due to first-round exits from Maiden and Bunker Hill.
Although it missed the state playoffs – finishing with a 2-4 overall record, as well as a matching South Fork 2A Conference record for fifth-place in the standings – the Newton-Conover Red Devils had some solid contributions individually.
One of the biggest of the 2020-21 season was from none other than senior running back/linebacker Allan Shade II.
Playing second fiddle on the offensive end during his junior campaign in 2019, Shade sprung into action mightily during his final run with the varsity program.
He finished this season with 1,053 yards and 13 touchdowns on 157 carries. Defensively, Shade put up 20 total tackles (three tackles for a loss), along with three sacks and a fumble recovery.
His defense was good and all, but Shade’s performance on the offensive side was unmatched in the area this year as he garnered 200 or more rushing yards in the first four games of the shortened 6-game regular-season schedule.
This included a 238 rushing yard performance in the season-opener against Lincolnton on Feb. 25, as well as a season-high four-TD outing in both of the team’s wins over Bandys and North Lincoln. His second-best rushing performance came in a loss to West Lincoln on March 12, in which he amassed 210 yards on 30 carries with three rushing TDs.
“He’s a grown man out there. There’s no doubt about it. I don’t think there’s a better running back around,” said Newton-Conover head coach Steve Pack following the win over Bandys on March 5. “He’s so big and strong. He’s (also) worked so hard on getting faster. He’s got his speed up, and he’s breaking runs now.”
Because of this offensive output, Shade was awarded the 2020-21 South Fork 2A Offensive Player of the Year. He also finished the regular-season with a No. 13 placement for rushing in the North Carolina High School Athletic Association Statistical Leaders rankings.
Through all of the trials and tribulations of a spring football season coming as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shade has maintained his composure and said that his faith is what gets him through.
Shade is of Samoan, Hawaiian and African American descent. He said that his mother’s side of the family is Polynesian. He said that she has a big family, and an important thing to understand is that Samoans and Hawaiians embrace their faith in God.
“Faith is always first, then family,” he said. “They have daily evening prayers as a family. (It’s) something I look forward to whenever we’re together. Worship as family, then there’s a big feast. My faith is very important to me. My mother (Sonya Moafanua) taught me that growing up. I learned to recite the Lord’s Prayer at 3-years-old.
“We recited it every night before bed. Oftentimes (I) get a smack if I forget a line. I’m reminded to pray every night and ask for God’s will (to) be done in my life.”
As far as how this carries over to football, Shade said he whispered a prayer before and after every game:
“My mom and her family has their prayer circle going, especially on game day,” he said. “The Fa’a Samoa. The Samoan way is built in faith and respect. Respect is a big thing in the culture. Just being a respectful person and remain(ing) humble. I’m reminded that I have two swords I carry with me. My God and my heart, and I can do anything because He’s with me.”
When speaking of his multicultural background, Shade said that he hasn’t really experienced any racial slights or slurs because he grew up as a military brat due to his father’s service.
Shade said that since his family has traveled a lot over the years, he has been able to meet people from all different walks of life and very diverse backgrounds.
In terms of his success in football at Newton-Conover this season, Shade credits God first and foremost.
“I (also) credit both my parents, my dad a bit more because he started me at a very young age,” he said. “Our family favors the (Pittsburgh) Steelers. He had me watch football games with him on Sundays.”
He said that his dad – Allan Shade Sr. – started him in soccer and basketball when he was in elementary school, then he wanted to try his hand at football in 3rd grade.
“I was always unsure about it until my first year of playing, and then I just fell in love with the sport,” he said. “My father coached me pretty much my whole life. My mom didn’t really want me in sports; she wanted me to focus more on academics and get academic scholarships to college and follow (in) her footsteps. So, instead I try to excel in academics first and then athletics because that’s the reason why student is in front of the word ‘student-athlete.’”
Due to his excellence at both, Shade has received three academic scholarships and five athletic scholarships so far.
For the former, he has received scholarships from Lenoir-Rhyne University, Emory & Henry College (VA) and Bridgewater College (VA). As for athletic scholarships, he has received offers from the aforementioned Emory & Henry College, Carson-Newman University (TN), Judson University (IL), Bethany College (KS) and Mars Hill University.
Although his prep football career is finished, Shade said that one thing he learned was that he can’t achieve greatness if he doesn’t believe he can. He said that his coaches, which included his dad, really helped him believe that he could be great and do things nobody believed he could do.
As a proper farewell, Shade leaves the program with this parting message:
“To my teammates, it went by fast just like our parents and coaches said it would. I hope that each one of you cherished the moments we had together and remember no matter how much you may want to, you can’t come back to high school. There is one truth we all have to face and it’s that everything has an ending. Trust me, I have always disliked endings.
“Endings are inevitable and as Winnie the Pooh said, ‘how lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ I thank my teammates and my coaches for believing in me and allowing me to play as a Red Devil.”