“He’s been a great leader for us,” Donahue said. “He’s maintained a good, positive attitude and really been a positive role model for the other kids.
“I think Allen enjoys being a leader. He’s a good leader, and he enjoys that.”
Although there are only three seniors on the roster, Hensley was quick to point out that Harlan’s talented juniors have stepped into leadership roles as well.
“It’s not too much pressure because our juniors have stepped up,” he said. “We’ve got a lot more leaders on the team than just the seniors — we’ve got help.”
Hensley, a 6-foot-1 senior who is also a basketball standout at Harlan, was expected to be the team’s top playmaker in 2008. It appeared that would be the case when he hauled in a Kenny Pennington pass for a 58-yard touchdown just four minutes into the Dragons’ season opener at Knott Central.
That was the last time Hensley would reach the end zone for nearly two months.
With opponents keying on him on every play, the senior had limited opportunities to touch the ball as junior tailback Andrew Link enjoyed a breakout season.
Hensley’s fine with his role, though.
“I try to keep everything positive,” he said. “It doesn’t bother me not to get the ball as long as we’re winning.”
The senior has enjoyed an increased role over the last three games. He had 10 touches in losses to Lynn Camp and Williamsburg. Last week against Jenkins, Hensley had his best rushing game of the year, picking up 76 yards and a touchdown on six carries as the Dragons claimed a 33-0 win.
“That was a big game for us. I had to step up and do more than I had been doing to help the team,” Hensley said. “That’s the only thing I’m worried about — helping the team.”
“I think coach (Jackie) Cornett has done a great job the last few weeks getting him the ball more, and I think he’s understanding what his role is — he’s got to stretch the defense, both horizontally and vertically, and help take the pressure off Andrew,” Donahue said.
Hensley leads the county in receptions, with 20 for 198 yards.
“He’s still made a lot of plays for us. When we’ve needed him, he’s been there,” Donahue said.
The win over Jenkins assured Harlan of the No. 2 seed in the playoffs, meaning the Dragons will host a first-round game on Nov. 14.
“That was our main goal (coming into the season),” Hensley said.
Hensley didn’t play high school football until his junior year, but Donahue said he possesses a strong knowledge of the game.
“He’s one of the kids that, if we put in a twist or a wrinkle and change things a little bit, he understands what’s going on as quick as anybody we have,” he said. “He’s starting to understand the game real well. It says a lot about the kid and his work ethic.”
Often overlooked are Hensley’s contributions on defense, where he plays safety.
“That’s what I’ve pretty much focused on this year,” he said. “I like getting up in there and getting tackles. I don’t always focus on the pass — I like to get in there and help the linebackers.”
“He’s understood that he’s back there in the middle defensively, and we expect him to run a lot of plays down, and that’s what he’s done for us,” Donahue said.