Chase Balla does it all for Allegheny’s football team
Chase Balla is a jack-of-all-trades for the Allegheny College football team.
The 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior has served as an anchor of the defense as a linebacker/defensive back hybrid since his freshman season, when he earned All-North Coast Athletic Conference honorable-mention honors.
Balla, a Valley High School graduate, has been a integral part of the Allegheny’s return game, and he was rewarded for his efforts last season as the NCAC Special Teams Player of the Year.
His contributions in those two phases have not waned this season, but he recently added a third element: offensive difference maker.
“I just want to be able to help the team in as many facets of the game as I can and, hopefully, see us get a win,” said Balla, who made his debut at running back against Hiram last Saturday and rushed for 59 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries in the Gators’ 45-22 victory.
Balla also was a difference maker on defense against Hiram. He made seven tackles, forced and recovered a fumble, had one-and-a-half tackles for loss and recovered a blocked point-after attempt.
“Chase is doing such a great job for us,” first-year Gators coach Rich Nagy said. “We have some seniors, but he’s a junior that offers a lot of leadership from his positions. For him, it’s how hard he works and competes and how that rubs off on the other players. This game and this team are so important to him. Getting to know him, I was able to relate to him right away because of how competitive and passionate he is.”
Balla is third for Allegheny (2-6) in tackles with 62. He had 13 tackles in the season opener against Rensselaer.
“Facing so many spread offenses, you can’t have guys who play just tackle to tackle,” Nagy said. “He’s a guy who came here as a corner and played some of that nickel linebacker last year. He’s in a good spot because he can spread out and cover receivers and also get in the backfield on a blitz or play the run. It fits him, because he’s a kid that gets bored doing one thing. It also gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Balla, the 2016 Valley News Dispatch Defensive Player of the Year, was effective for the Vikings on both sides of the ball, so he was pumped to get an opportunity in the Allegheny offense.
“I have that motor that keeps me going at all times,” Balla said. “This is kind of like senior year of high school all over again going both ways, offensively and defensively. Coach Nagy and I talked a little bit about it in spring ball because I was returning kicks. He wanted to find the right opportunity to get me more touches. I wasn’t against it, obviously.”
Balla’s first carry against Hiram went 28 yards for a touchdown and gave Allegheny a 6-0 lead. With the score tied at seven, Balla put the Gators ahead again early in the second quarter with a 1-yard scoring plunge.
“He’s done such a great job with the ball as a returner the past couple of years, so we put in a package in for him, and he really responded,” Nagy said. “He goes for 28 yards on his first carry. He made us look good. He has the natural ability on offense, but we have to manage that as he still is such a valuable part of the defense.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-856-7400 x8632, [email protected] or via Twitter .