If anyone needed a breather, perhaps taking a play off in practice, DeMatha Coach Bill McGregor figured it would be running back Jeff Allen.

Allen's alarm clock goes off at 5:30 each morning, two hours before school starts. He has to leave his house in Woodbridge by 6 to make the 35-mile drive to the Hyattsville private school, and he needs to leave time for a quick stop at a fast-food restaurant for breakfast.

After school, Allen pulls double duty for the Stags. After fellow running back Anthony Wiseman was injured in the team's second game and lost for the season, Allen's role on offense increased. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound senior also starts at safety.

With that in mind, McGregor would understand -- although not approve -- if he caught Allen dragging a little at some point during practice.

"You'd think [he would] take something off somewhere," McGregor said. "He just doesn't. He's a good kid. Everything he does is at full speed. He's the type of kid you knew as a freshman if he kept his nose clean and did everything you asked him to do, he would get a full scholarship."

McGregor thinks that Maryland is getting a steal in Allen, who before the season told the Terrapins he will accept a scholarship to play football.

Maryland recruited Allen to play defensive back, but McGregor believes that he also could play running back in college.

Allen is averaging nearly nine yards a carry this season, rushing for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Stags, who are the second seed in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference playoffs.

DeMatha (8-1) hosts St. John's (7-3) in a semifinal game Saturday at Parkdale High School. If the Stags win, they would advance to the WCAC championship game Nov. 21 in Annapolis against the Good Counsel-Gonzaga winner; Good Counsel handed the Stags their only loss, 31-21, on Oct. 15.

"We're trying to take it one step at a time, but everything is for the championship," Allen said. "We just want to meet [Good Counsel] again. We just want to make sure that they know they really didn't win the game and we didn't play our best game. We want to come out and prove to everybody that is doubting us that we are still DeMatha and we still come out and play."

There always is pressure to succeed at DeMatha, which has lost only eight games since the start of the 1997 season and annually produces some of the Washington area's top players.

For Allen, that pressure is magnified because his father and two uncles played for the Stags, and Allen always knew he was going to attend DeMatha.

That means a 45-minute drive every morning, often leaving before sunrise and returning after sunset during football season.

"I get tired, but I try to block it out," Allen said. "I don't like to show it."

Allen lives in the attendance area of Hylton High and could play for the Bulldogs, a Prince William County powerhouse thathas won six consecutive Virginia AAA Northwestern Region Division 6 titles.

However, the allure of playing for DeMatha outweighed the prospect of a shorter drive.

"I think it's the best experience to play with the talent we have," Allen said. "When you play with people with the same talent [level] as you, that makes you work real hard because you know the person next to you is almost as good as you."

Beginning next year, Allen no longer will have to make the long commute. When it was noted that Maryland's College Park campus would be a shorter drive from his house in Woodbridge (albeit just two miles closer) and the Terrapins could perhaps save some money by having Allen continue to live at home, he simply shook his head and smiled.

"It will be cool not to have to wake up so early to go to class," he said.

Jeff Allen has rushed for 977 yards and 12 touchdowns for DeMatha this year. The Stags play St. John's on Saturday in the semifinals of the WCAC playoffs.