ST. MARYS — When you talk to high school athletes, a lot point to the importance of friendships and meeting different people as a key aspect of their sports ventures.
Elk County Catholic senior Mason McAllister, who plays football and basketball for the Crusaders, is one of those athletes.
“The best thing about playing sports, in my opinion, is creating friendships with my teammates and our opponents,” he said.
McAllister began playing both his sports at a young — football when he was 5 and basketball at age 10 — and is multi-year letterwinner in each at the varsity level. He earned four letters in football and will be seeking his third this winter on the hardwood.
Given the importance of friendship to McAllister, it should come as no surprise that he looked towards one of his older friends/teammate for guidance.
“The role model in my life was Leo Gregory who graduated last year,” said McAllister. “In football and basketball, he took me under his wing and always convinced me to get in the weight room even when I didn’t feel like it. He has taught me a lot.”
On the gridiron, McAllister made his presence felt at the quarterback position from the time he was a freshman. He split time at QB as a freshman with then senior Tyler Dilley before taking over as the starter his final three seasons.
McAllister was never asked to do too much through the air for the Crusaders, who are known more for its potent ground attack in recent years.
However, that doesn’t mean the QB didn’t make plays when called upon while helping ECC to an 18-17 record during his four-year career. Two of those losses came in first-round District 9 playoff games his sophomore and junior seasons. ECC did not qualify for the playoffs his freshman and senior campaigns.
McAllister helped the Crusaders to a drastic turnaround in his first season as a full-time starter as a sophomore (2018), as ECC went 7-3 after being 2-7 the prior year.
He threw for 836 yards with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions that season as Elk County won the first ever District 9 League Small School South Division title. McAllister then passed for a career-high 921 yards to go along with 10 TDs and nine interceptions his junior year as the Crusaders went 5-5.
This past fall, the Crusader saw a big improvement in his touchdown-interception ratio — posting nine TDs and just two interceptions while throwing for 452 yards to help ECC to a 4-2 mark while playing a shortened season in the Intermediate Unit 9 Bubble because of COVID-19.
McAllister’s most memorable game came on the gridiron his junior season.
“We played Keystone in a high-scoring shootout, and I finished the game with 4 touchdown passes,” he said.
McAllister and his teammates lost that contest vs. Keystone, 44-41, but the QB threw for 247 yards that night to go along with his four TD passes and one interception.
On the hardwood, McAllister has earned a pair of varsity letters while providing depth in the post on back-to-back District 9 Class A championship squads that went a combined 53-4 between his sophomore and junior years while reaching the second round of states each year.
McAllister scored a career-best 105 points as a junior to go along with 66 rebounds, 18 steals and 16 assists. He looks to see his playing time increase this year as he is just one of four seniors back on a squad that lost a large and talented group of players to graduation.
The Crusader and his teammates have yet to step on the floor in a game though this winter, as their season opener was postponed the day before winter sports were shut down until at least Jan. 4 by Gov. Tom Wolf.
When sports resume, it will mark yet another season McAllister will have impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s definitely strange to think that no one is going to be allowed in the gym to watch our basketball games this year,” he said. “It’s also weird wearing masks during practice. It’s definitely going to take some time to get used too, but it’s an opportunity for myself and my teammates to get better as a whole.”
Of his two sports, McAllister said football is favorite sport.
“It is fun to play and watch with my friends,” said McAllister of football. “It’s the greatest feeling when a big play happens, and you get to go crazy with your buddies on the field.”
Outside of his sports, McAllister is in the school’s envirothon club because he like learning about the different animals in the environment. When not in school, he enjoys bass fishing with his friends.
He also has a unique set of professional sports teams he follows living in North-central Pennsylvania. He likes in the Indianapolis Colts in football and Philadelphia 76ers in basketball.
McAllister, the son of James and Jen McAllister, has a younger sister who is currently in middle school.
After gradution, McAllister plans to attend Pitt-Bradford majoring in pre-optometry for three years before attending Salus University for optometry.