50 in 50: Martin Luther King Lions

By S. Thomas Coleman
For the AJC

They say it is good to save the best for last. Martin Luther King head football coach Cortez Allen hopes that is the case when it comes to the AJC.com 50-in-50 series.

The Lions are the final team on this year’s list. Allen hopes they are the final team left standing in Class AAAAA, at the end of the playoffs. In just 11 seasons of football M.L. King has established itself as one of the state’s top programs with a record of 105-29, and four region championships, including the 2012 Region 6AAAAA title.

But Allen, in his first year as head coach, wants more.

“That’s why you work so hard, because ultimately, you are working and competing to win a state championship,” Allen said. “Winning region championships is great, an outstanding accomplishment, especially in a region as tough as ours. But ultimately, it’s about winning state championships, making sure your kids graduate and go to college, and become successful men in life. That’s what this is all about. “

Allen, who was born and bred in DeKalb County (Southwest Dekalb, Class of 1997) was on the inaugural staff at MLK as the defensive coordinator for then-head coach Ken Barrow, who guided the program to one of the most successful starts for a high school in Georgia as the Lions went 25-12 in the first three seasons with appearances in the state quarterfinals and semifinals in 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Allen followed Barrow to Mundy’s Mill in Clayton County, and was the defensive coordinator there for three seasons, before moving over to take the same position at Newton County. After two seasons, he took over there as the Rams’ head coach in 2010.

Allen said he could have returned to MLK as head coach a few years ago, but he thought he needed more experience as a head coach.

“I just didn’t think I was ready,” said Allen, who was given his first job in coaching back in 1999 by long time Athens Academy head coach Mike Gunn. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some great coaches – coach Barrow and coach Gunn – but I knew I needed more experience. The opportunity presented itself again, and now it feels really good to be back. It’s like coming home.”

Allen is extremely familiar with the MLK community and the ability to build a championship program in DeKalb County.

“Coming back to DeKalb County is so special to me. I grew up here, played sports here growing up. It’s made me who I am today,” he said. “The competition in our community, in our region [eight of 10 teams from DeKalb County], it prepares you for winning championships.

“There’s so much talent in the area, too. You look at what DeKalb County is doing in basketball and baseball with my old coach, coach [Marvin] Pruitt at Redan,” Allen said of this year’s Class AAAA baseball champions. “And in track and field too, DeKalb is dominating.

“That will be a big difference for us here, coming from Newton County,” Allen said. “We had some talented players in our starting lineup, but there would be a drop off after that. Here, our starter might grade out at an A, but the second and third guys might grade out as A or A-minus players, too. That means there will always be competition for spots and that’s what you want to have.”

This season the Lions return six starters on offense and seven on defense. The talented nucleus is made up of defensive back Wesley Green, a member of ESPN’s Top 150, defensive end/linebacker Arden Key and quarterback Roland Rivers. Green and Rivers are rising seniors, while Key will be a junior.

Allen said the Lions will still fly around on defense, after giving up just 11 points per game last season. While they averaged 31 points per game on offense, Allen said this year’s team will run the football more, even though Rivers is touted as one of the state’s best passers.

“We’re going to be more balanced,” Allen said. “Roland can throw the ball as well as any kid I’ve seen. He has really taken this offense by the throat and become familiar and comfortable with it, and we will definitely still throw the football. But we’re going to be dedicated to running the ball more because you have to run the ball successfully if you want to win a state championship, and that’s what we’re going to be about here – winning state championships.”

Martin Luther King Lions

2012 record: 11-1, 9-0 in Region 6AAAAA; Lost to Allatoona (20-19) in the second round of the state playoffs

Starters returning: 6 offense; 7 defense

Key returning players: DB Wesley Green (6-0, 180), DE/LB Arden Key (6-5, 215), QB Roland Rivers (6-4, 230)

Key players lost: WR D.J. Polite-Bray (Texas Tech), OL Josh Outlaw (Texas Tech), WR Donald Clark, DB Jeremy Tyler (West Virginia), LB Carlos Garrett, LB McCarthy Mack (Texas Tech)

Schedule: (Scrimmage) TBD vs. Cedar Grove; Aug. 31 vs. Blanche Ely (Pompano Beach, Fla.); Sept. 7 Southwest Dekalb; Sept. 13 Mays; Sept. 20 North Atlanta; Sept. 27 Arabia Mountain; Oct. 11 Dunwoody; Oct. 18 Lakeside-DeKalb; Oct. 25 Stephenson; Nov. 1 Tucker; Nov. 8 Miller Grove.

Outlook: In spite of the coaching change, MLK shouldn’t miss a beat . The return of a solid nucleus of players, led by Green and Rivers, along with a renewed dedication to running the football, will have the Lions right back in the hunt for the title in Region 6AAAAA, one of the toughest in the state.

49 comments Add your comment

BcS2010

May 31st, 2013
6:33 pm

This region is crazy!! And Mlk will be good but tucker this year will be Great!!

dekalbFB1

May 31st, 2013
6:48 pm

I am MLK fan. I am honored that MLK was last on list. We always graduate several college players, and still reload to have a successful season. We don’t take that for granted! What person should look at is the track record of the school. The winning %, region champs, placing several college players, and in the school 11 years history; we have HAD 4 new coaches (Coach Allen – 5th)!! Jeopardy question name another state school that can match or better it? Go ahead I will WAIT! Let’s Go Lions….

Max Sizemore

May 31st, 2013
7:39 pm

Presumably, Arden key is the son of an Arden Key who was a fine basketball player at Lakeside in the early 1980s. That means he’s got the right genes — if not the jump shot.

Dekalb Watcher

May 31st, 2013
11:44 pm

@ Max Sizemore Yes he is, and still growing!

dekalbFB1

June 1st, 2013
10:25 am

@BcS2010 – This region is very tough. There are several teams that can win the region. But we WELCOME everyone, right now we are tied for first place!!!!

Max Sizemore

June 1st, 2013
1:02 pm

Thanks, DeKalb Watcher. For those who didn’t see him, Arden Key could PLAY.

JAB

June 1st, 2013
5:30 pm

MLK will finish 3rd this year behind Stephenson, Tucker, MLK, Miller Grove, Arabian Mt., Mays, SWD, Lakeside, N. Atlanta

uncleJunior

June 1st, 2013
5:47 pm

@JAB. . . . .will you be in the video this year????????

MIGHTY LION KING

June 1st, 2013
6:39 pm

@ AJC- Just wanted to finally thank AJC for establishing our boys in the way they did!! I did not think we would make the line-up but the “saving the best for last” solution was the overrall best solution that i didnt see comin!! So to TODD and AJC family thanks for the opportunity and apologies for the pressure i put on ya TODD!!

ON ANOTHER NOTE!! This yr will be interesting..Different coach to say the least but then again when isnt our yr interesting!! We get better and better each yr beating teams others would say would drag us! This yr i expect to be no different, only in the fact that this yr we’ll be state champs!!
I can agree with coach Allen that improvement on our running game would diffently help our offense but as long as he doesnt completely abandon our passing game, something MLK is known to be deadly in, we shall be fine!! Other than that, I like the idea of a balanced offense! ANOTHER YR…ANOTHER REGION TITLE..ADDING A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP—->THAT IS OUR GOAL!!

@BcS2010-highly doubt that TUCKER will knock KING off the thrown my friend!! lol But ur not wrong to have pride in your team!! GOOD LUCK MAN!!

@ JAB- LMBO!! really?? every yr, same ol JAB LOL !! Guud to hear from u man! Unfortunately ur wrong again as you’ve been for the past consecutive 3 yrs!! MLK finish third ?? to teams that all have kneeled to their KING last yr LMBO?? HIGHLY DOUBT 3rd place will be the seat of MLK this yr!! Might wanna get use to sitting in the 2nd place / 3rd place seat for a while lol.. MLK IS HERE TO STAY!! 6-AAAAA WE RUN THAT JUNGLE!!!

LION NATION/ THE DOMINATION !!!!!!!!

rwdekalb

June 2nd, 2013
5:27 pm

Who does MLK play in preseason scrimmage game this year

rwdekalb

June 2nd, 2013
5:39 pm

I doubt if any team will dominate in region 6aaaaa. I mean amongst themselves. With Tucker, Stephenson, MLK all playing at high level and Mays, SWD, Miller Grove and Arabia Mountain all potentially being able to have a breakout season, the region crown won’t be decided until the last week of season in this region.

dekalbFB1

June 2nd, 2013
7:16 pm

@ JAB – MLK would not finish 3rd even if you are going alphabetically. The KING is HERE!!!!

S. Thomas Coleman

June 2nd, 2013
9:54 pm

@rwdekalb: MLK will play Cedar Grove in the scrimmage, but the time and place had not been determined at the time I spoke with Coach Allen.

STC

S. Thomas Coleman

June 2nd, 2013
10:05 pm

On behalf of my fellow high school sports reporters/bloggers at the AJC and ajc.com, thanks to everyone for checking in on the “50-in-50″ series this spring. We enjoyed producing it. Hope you enjoyed reading and reacting! Should be another fun season of high school football in Georgia, as good as it gets anywhere in the nation!

STC

Lions Den

June 3rd, 2013
1:34 pm

Here we go Lions, here we go…..all the way in 2013! MLK is ready and primed to finish the drill and WIN the State Championship now.

Welcome home Coach Allen, we’re glad to have you back in the Southwest Dekalb community at MLK nevertheless. SWD HS really missed out replacing the honorable “Mr. Buck Godfrey” on his replacement. Please continue the legacy of preparing young men for LIFE.

FootballTopFan(c)

June 3rd, 2013
2:45 pm

FootballTopFan(c) would like to congratulate the Martin Luther King Lions and head coach Cortez Allen on a great football program !!!

I Have A Dream that the MLK Lions will have another great season.

We wish you much luck and success.

Football Top Fans support high school football.

MLKayWay

June 3rd, 2013
4:41 pm

This will be a good year despite all the drama, naysayers and all. Look out for many on the offense – as well as the defense. These boys have been groomed to play football the MLKWay!!! We love the doubters, happens to us every year.

dekalbFB1

June 3rd, 2013
6:14 pm

The new HC @ MLK will bring a more balance attack. Don’t worry about him leaving out the pass, with Rivers as the QB, he is top passer. This offense will only make it easier. We have tried the pass-happy offense and it didn’t take us far.

MLK #1

June 3rd, 2013
9:23 pm

What about receiver Romello Shumake #23? He will definitely be the next big receiver out of MLK. Him and rivers will connect a lot this year

MLK Number One Fan

June 3rd, 2013
11:44 pm

The new coaching will be the one that figure out how to get KING to the State this year. But, we need for the rest of the region to watch as we go to the top!!!!!!!!!!

KING IS HERE

June 4th, 2013
7:24 am

SEE YA SOON. LET’S GO LIONS!

Tiger4Life

June 4th, 2013
10:28 am

I think MLK is becoming the new Stephenson…
Tons of talent and no Hardware :-0
Please stop proclaiming “This is our Year” Last year was you guys year, dropping down to your rightful classification and playing against inferior competition.. it was suppose to be so easy, right?
MLK finished 1st in the region and was sitting at home while Tucker and Stephenson played in the 3rd round.

Lions Den

June 4th, 2013
10:52 am

Tiger4Life….exactly! Tucker HS has been around that long, so who cares what you have to say, just think about the butt whipping from last year and the next one on the horizon! It’s gonna be this way every season, year after year, so get used to it. Why are you learking on our post anyway worrying about The King? Surely, sounds like a scared little wimp to me. You have to be the King of the jungle to make a post here you little tiger.

“In just 11 seasons of football M.L. King has established itself as one of the state’s top programs with a record of 105-29, and four region championships, including the 2012 Region 6AAAAA title.”

BcS2010

June 4th, 2013
11:23 am

@lions den… Mlk won by a touchdown last season over tucker and last season was y’all so called dream season.. Mlk better learn this new system that they will use fast because Tucker is better!! Tucker will have the best defense in the nation! Jus look at everybody ranked on that D.. 3rd ranked DT nationally! LB going to Louisville ..4secondary players ranked!! Tucker had a down year with getting a new coach and still finished better than MLk lol jus watch y’all will see the Tucker Tigers this season!!!! “10-3 overall,7-2 in region,elite 8 loss to NSWR,2012 was a fail,redeem year for the Tigers dynasty”

blu eagle

June 4th, 2013
1:05 pm

For all the teams in 5A the Red Elephants are the team with Deshaun watson still there. It is just as well My team NSWR has a down year this year as noone is taking the crown from G’ville.

Tiger4Life

June 4th, 2013
3:11 pm

Llh, Yeah MLK is definitely the new Stephenson.

Best team in AAAAA and You guys lost at home to Allatoona in the second round. ALLATOONA 0_o
Explain that please?

And if no one cares why respond… hum…

Demons4life

June 4th, 2013
5:59 pm

@ blu eagle get ready for the Takeover 2013!!!

MLK #1

June 4th, 2013
9:17 pm

@tiger4life The Game against allatoona we didn’t have our starting Quarterback, Running back and we were down two of our starting lineman. Left tackle and right tackle

Tiger4Life

June 5th, 2013
10:44 am

MLK #1

Believe me I understand, that’s all I’m saying. How do you proclaim a championship 2 months before a season starts. I’m not hating by any means, I’m actually telling the truth… it takes players, coaching, practice, skills and a little luck to win a ring in the higher classifications.
Most of MLK and Stephenson fans talk reckless like the rest of us aren’t playing football and don’t have athletes as well. Both fan bases seem extremely arrogant for a school that hasn’t won a championship. Try being humble for once ;-)

Cold Hard Facts

June 5th, 2013
10:58 am

Mr. Coleman,
I am missing something? I counted only 16 schools featured? Is there an archive that has all 50 schools?

dogmatic

June 5th, 2013
11:54 am

Im sitting here reading these comments and all i’m hearing is MLK this MLK That. Let’s be real you guys are regular season champs which don’t mean crap. You may have won Regionals Championship but you haven’t won the coveted Ring that every team sets there sites on every year. All that talent Stephenson and MLK has had you would’ve thought they would at least have a few rings. LMAO. The teams that actually won had way less talent than MLK TUCKER and Stephenson. You need to be worried about how well you gone do this year with those sorry coaches from Newton County who barely won in there weak Region. Im tired of hearing how you guys gonna win the championship. You better worry bout getting out of your region this year. From what I have seen Tucker, Arabian, Stephenson, Mays and Miller Grove gonna be tough to beat. MLK talk to much to not have been to the dome. By the way i know 7 on 7 don’t mean anything but Mundy Mills and Westlake beat yall wow after you guys thought yall were the stuff lmao. Stephenson won the Cam newton Camp and they not even no passing team lmao. You guys are overrated and really gonna miss Coach Evans. After that first game loss everything gonna go down hill, then what your excuses gonna be. Shut your mouths and play the games. You guys have been lucky over the past few years .

MLK #1

June 5th, 2013
2:55 pm

@dogmatic So a 7 on 7 tournament determines who is better? Name one team who won a 7 on 7 that won state last year??????? 0, none , nobody. People love hating MLK because we win with confidence, and we’re going to keep winning. Whatever team you’re for, mlk has beat them. What’s the excuse for your team not winning state last year?

dekalbFB1

June 5th, 2013
3:57 pm

I know some people think that MLK will miss Coach Evans. Don’t get me wrong Coach DID a great job there. I said it once and I will say it again, MLK is ONLY 11 years old. They HAD 4 – Coach Allen (5). But look at their RECORD! You call that LUCK? Right now everyone is in FIRST place, let’s ENJOY it while it last……..

uncleJunior

June 5th, 2013
4:28 pm

There is nothing wrong with a team or fans of a team to be optimistic about their upcoming season. The best thing about offseason chatter, is everyone is undefeated and everyone is hopeful. You have this on every level (high school, college, nfl). That’s why we are called fans!!! And thats why they call them Athletes!!!! I guarantee, the majority of high school football fans and athletes are saying the same, pertaining to their teams. Optimism!!!!!

So, for all those who come to blog and throw stones. . . .maybe you are throwing stones because you are hating on the MLK fam or you lack the optimism for your team.

(Michael Buffer – imitation) . . . . .Aaaaaaaannnnnddd, STILL Region Champs!!!! MLK, sucker.

. . . . . .

uncleJunior

June 5th, 2013
4:35 pm

Oh. I must add. I have defended, both Stephenson and Tucker, when haters have accused THEM of being arrogant and/or was accused of being sub par.

So, show some pride and stop hating people.

BcS2010

June 5th, 2013
6:46 pm

There’s no debate over the past 5 season look at each teams resume… (Tucker is 61-8 with 2 state championships, 2 region championships, 1 final 4, 1 elite 8, and 1 second round exit),(MLK is 49-11 with 3 region championships, 3 second round exits, 1 elite 8 and 1 first round exit), (Stephenson is 47-10 with 2 region championships, 2 first round exits, 2 second round exits, and 1 final 4) so there is no debate it’s clearly Tucker is the best and Mlk and Stephenson choke just about every year!!

BcS2010

June 5th, 2013
6:57 pm

More in depth 2008
Tucker- (14-1) state champs
Mlk- (8-3) 1st round
Stephenson- (9-2) region champs, 2nd round
2009!
Tucker-(9-3) 2nd round
Mlk-(10-2) 2nd round
Stephenson-(11-1) region champs 2nd round
2010!
Tucker-(13-1) region champs, final 4
Mlk-(8-4) region champs, 2nd round
Stephenson-(9-2) 1st round
2011!!
Tucker-(15-0) region and state champs
Mlk-(12-1) region champs, elite 8
Stephenson-(9-2) 1st round
2012!
Tucker-(10-3) elite 8
Mlk-(11-1) region champs, 2nd round
Stephenson-(9-3) elite 8

BcS2010

June 5th, 2013
6:59 pm

Sorry Stephenson has not been to a final 4 in the past 5 years

uncleJunior

June 5th, 2013
7:08 pm

Well, like I said. MLK region champs. I believe Tucker had their shot at the region. Make no mistake, I salute Tucker. I like their program. But when it comes to trying to disregard a program because of their success (hating), I gots to say . . . . they (MLK) are reigning REGION CHAMPS!

For a minute, Tucker was accused of being choke artists for their failures until they won the State . . . . and Tucker been here since . . . . well, for decades. So be patient my friend. But until then, you have to beat MLK!!!!!!!!!! . . . .aaaaaaaaannnnnnd STILL, REGION CHAMPS!!!!!!!!!!

d

June 5th, 2013
8:00 pm

TUCKER HIGH SCHOOL OPEN IN 1918. SO HOW LONG HAS IT TOOK THEM TO WHEN ONE.

rwdekalb

June 6th, 2013
9:23 am

As Tiger4Life stated it takes many factors to fall in line for a team to win a title. Unfortunately it takes more than just talented players and a good coach. Some teams match up better against some and it definitely does take just a little bit of luck. No replay in high school so a bad call at the wrong time can have can definitely change the energy and outcome of any game between good schools. Also inopportune injury to a key player has ruined many very good teams seasons.

uncleJunior

June 6th, 2013
5:41 pm

“Outlook: In spite of the coaching change, MLK shouldn’t miss a beat . The return of a solid nucleus of players, led by Green and Rivers, along with a renewed dedication to running the football, will have the Lions right back in the hunt for the title in Region 6AAAAA, one of the toughest in the state.”

To all of the haters: I didn’t write this. . . . AJC did!

dekalbFB1

June 6th, 2013
6:54 pm

@uncle Junior – My statement about the changing of HC in a short timeframe. It was not a EXCUSE; it should SHOW you it does not matter who the HC is, MLK is still a team with a VERY impressive record!!!!!

uncleJunior

June 6th, 2013
8:07 pm

@dekalbFB1. . . . I pretty much agreed with your statement. I was really directing my response to the others who came to hate and talk crazy, because AJC chose to cover MLK.

MIGHTY LION KING

June 6th, 2013
10:21 pm

@Bcs2010…thats great that you are able to retrace the past 5 seasons,and to your team for doing a better job, hats off!! BUT…AND I DO SAY “BUT” lets retrace all the way back to school opening to present..TUCKER has JUST NOW earned their state championships in the 20th century lol mind you they been open since the BEDROCK and THE FLINSTIONES lol just messin.. but they have been open a really long time tho.. 1918 from what i heard idk i could be wrong..”was MLK himself even born then?? anyone kno?? MY POINT i trying to make is you cant boast on another team not earning 2 state championships let alone 1 if it took you dang near a century to get JUST 2!! I know you are very anxious for MLK to get a state title and trust me we will but just like yall had to learn it takes time and patience!! BESIDES now you see how crazy it is to brag on ur team being btter when to NEW BABY schools just came into your territory and handed your tails to you!! YOU ARE RIGHT FACTS ARE FACTS yall do have a better record in the past five seasons then we do but as of last yr when you finally played us and underestimated us, you payed the price!! NOW as it stands BOTH new baby schools gave THE 2 TIME STATE CHAMPIONS MIGHTY TUCKER TIGERS thier first 2 losses in the past 2 yrs if im correct!! U wanted to state facts well im just statin the facts that u cant claim your team to be better than MLK or STEPHENSON ..YOU HAVE TO BEAT US FIRST
Just statin facts man.. no disrespect!!

LION NATION/ THE DOMINATION!!!

Tri Cities 4 Life

June 7th, 2013
8:01 am

Big ups to Dekalb County Sports especially football because you all produce some very good talent out there and your football teams stay loaded with enough talent to win championships every year!!!

Mr. Johnson

June 7th, 2013
9:00 am

I’m sitting here reading all of this nonsense… MLK is not the new Stephenson… How can you expect any team to win a state championship when the coach isn’t there long enough to really get the program going. They are a growing program and it won’t be long before they win one, but i just don’t think it will be under Cortez Allen… Every schools goal is to win a state championship and you have to have a little luck on your side and MLK just hasn’t had such luck… Yes you can say they shouldve been a contender this past season, but they lost to a mediocre Allatoona team that came to play. MLK was up 19-6, but got relaxed and ended up losing 20-19. I think it’s unfair for anyone to bash any coach who gives up his time and even his money for the benefit of someone else’s child. What the staff at MLK did the past 3 years was nothing short of remarkable. Breaking numerous county and state records, sending over 60 kids to college, winning 3 straight region championships, having their head coach win coach of they year 3 years in a row is unheard of..

Cortez Allen is talking about being more balanced because he or is offensive coordinator really know nothing about the passing game, but if you really want to get to the nitty gritty go to http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us and look at the football stats and you will see that MLK was more balanced than any other team in the county other than Cedar Grove… No team is balanced if you want to get technical. Either you run it 80% of the time or you throw it 80% of the time… MLK had the most diverse offense in the state of Georgia the past 3 years even though EVERYONE says they are pass happy. They did throw it quite effectively because they had a staff that knew what it took to run an offense effectively and they had weapons who could take quick passes and make people miss (Demarco Robinson-Kentucky, Blake Tibbs-Geogia, Kevin Byard-Middle Tennessee, Quinton Boswell-Savannah State, Josh Stanford-Virginia Tech, Carnell Boyd-Alabama State, Dontavious Heard-Memphis, Demarquis Polite-Bray) and go to the house. Now that they have a new staff I can almost guarantee you that they won’t make the playoffs this year in a region that has a much improved Arabia Mountain team, a tough and grimy Miller Grove team, a Corey Jarvis led Mays team, a veteran Tucker squad, and a transfer heaven in Stephenson… Just remember this post when November/December gets here…

MLK ALL DAY

June 7th, 2013
9:04 am

SAY WHAT YOU WANT TO SAY ABOUT THE KING.. WE ARE STILL THE UNDEFEATED REGION CHAMPS 2 YEARS RUNNING… HAVEN’T LOST TO A DEKALB TEAM IN 3 YEARS AND HAVE 2 STRAIGHT UNDEFEATED REGULAR SEASONS… ALTHOUGH THAT MAY CHANGE THIS YEAR, I’M STILL RIDING WITH MARTIN LUTHER KING!!! COME GET SOME!!

True Blue

June 7th, 2013
6:59 pm

Its funny how Stephenson is always on Tucker Mind. What do Stephenson have to do with MLK 50-50. Stephenson hasn’t won anything, but why do Tucker Fans always talking about them. You have won 2 State Titles. So what’s the problem. The blog is talking about MLK not Stephenson. It’s just Stephenson is always on your mind when it comes to HS football or is it that Tucker is not used to being 3rd in the County in Football