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MIAMI — After convincing himself he could make the grade, Northeastern Oklahoma A&M offensive tackle Daniel Allen has become a key part of a high-octane Golden Norse offense.

“It was kind of a shellshock when I came here in the spring because everyone was so much stronger than me,” the former Miami Wardog said. “I thought ‘man, I can’t hang with these guys’ but just kept putting in the work. I finally proved to myself (he could do it) and earned a starting spot.”

Allen and the fourth-ranked Golden Norsemen (9-2) square off against No. 7 Independence (Kansas) Community College (8-2) in the inaugural Midwest Classic Bowl presented by Downstream Resort Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Miami Multi-Purpose Sports Complex at Red Robertson Field.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

Allen was the outstanding defensive tackle in District 4A-3 as a senior and represented the Wardogs in the Oklahoma Coach Association all-state game as on offensive lineman.

It’s been a big turnaround for Allen.

“Coming off a 1-9 season in high school to this and already having won a championship, it’s an awesome feeling,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to trade it for anything.”

The Dogs’ only win in 2016 was against Tulsa McLain, but they were in a loaded district that included 4A powers Wagoner and Oologah as well as Tulsa Cascia Hall.

“It was tough for us to compete,” Allen said.

The Norse offense, which ranks second in the NJCAA with 525.5 yards per game, features the Southwest Junior College Football Conference offensive player of the year Football Conference Darwin Thompson.

Thompson has gained 1,291 yards on 168 carries with six touchdowns. He also has 10 receptions for 78 yards and one TD.

Thompson is only the third Norse running back to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing mark in his career.

He has gained 2,076 total yards to join Charles Elix (2,703 yards in 2003-04) and Josh Scobey (2,306 yards in 1998-99).

“No one has been stopping us when we play together,” Allen said.

While the 6-4, 283-pound Allen has been the starter all season at left tackle, he’s been joined in the trenches by Chase Livesay (6-3, 293) or Ryan Day (6-4, 315) at left guard, Diamen House (6-0, 304) at center, Jeremy West (6-3, 308) at right guard and Judge Hartin (6-4, 278) at right tackle.

Their coach has been Zach Allen, who moved over to coach the offensive line after spending several years as defensive coordinator.

“He’s hard on us, but he’s a great coach,” Daniel Allen said. “He doesn’t sugar coat anything. When I found he was taking the offensive line job, I thought it would be great.”

Daniel Allen has had to adjust to the faster pace of the college game.

“We run a high-tempo offense. We didn’t do that in high school,” Allen said. “It was hard, but my conditioning got better. Everybody hits a lot harder here. I had to adjust to that.”

He said he finally got acclimated after about three games.

Allen, who is a general studies major who eventually would like to be a strength trainer, likes to stop by MHS from time to time to check things out.

“I love going back over there to hype the kids up,” he said. “I want to see Miami bring home a championship someday.”

He likes the hiring of Andrew Rice as the Wardogs head coach.

“With his knowledge they will get there some day,” Allen said. “He brings fire into the program. It will just take a couple years to get them turned around.”

Independence checked in Friday afternoon and several activities for the teams are planned over the next couple of days.

An autograph session with players from both teams will be from 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Miami High School Activity Center.

Those attending the autograph session also will have a chance to have their photo taken with Steve Owens’ Heisman Trophy that will be on display.

Owens is one of the game’s major sponsors.

Players from each team will participate in the annual Miami Christmas Parade, which starts at 6 p.m., and then they will be honored at a 7:30 p.m. banquet Saturday night at the First Christian Church of Miami.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children (ages 4 through 12).

General admission game tickets may be purchased online at www.midwestclassicbowl.com.

Daniel Allen said the Norsemen are not taking Independence lightly.

They have some good players on the defensive line,” he said. “I think we can come out with a win, but we can’t beat ourselves. We have to put it all together and work as a team.”

The sponsors

Downstream Resort is the game’s presenting sponsor.

Red level sponsors include Midwest Sporting Goods and Adidas.

Steve Owens and Associates is a White level sponsor and Sodexo and the Grand River Dam Authority are Blue level sponsors.

Other sponsors include Quapaw Casino, the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, City of Miami, Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce, KSN, KODE, KKOW, FOX 14, KOAM, Joplin Sports Authority, Steve and Barbara Owens, AIP, Crossland Construction, MHS Class of 1975, Family Dental Associates, Integris Miami, Karnes Pro Tire, Osborn Drugs, Allen Sign Studio, Olsson & Associates, Cole Rental Equipment, Coleman Theatre and the NJCAA.