There is a time-honored sports tradition that underclassmen at the high school and even college level must wait their turn to have the team turn over the reins to them.
Pennsauken head football and track coach Clinton Tabb has had his share of talent pass though the hallways and fields of the Pennsauken, New Jersey campus.
Running back/defensive back KaRon Ali is another great addition to South Jersey sports scene from the Ali family.
KaRon has produced solid seasons in 2022 as a freshman running back and this year, playing both sides of the ball.
KaRon played, but he had to give way to his older brother Kahlil, who played quarterback, wide receiver and defensive back from the 2019 season until 2022 and Elijah Jennings, a great running back and cornerback, who as a senior, turned in a terrific 2023 season.
Now it’s KaRon’s turn starting next fall, right”
“Absolutely,” Tabb said in a recent phone call. I’m excited to see what he can be.”
Tabb said KaRon is already emerging as a track star for the Indians, specializing in the 400-meter dash.
On January 8, 2024, KaRon posted he ran a new indoor PR in the 200m, season opener 22.82 seconds.
The veteran coach seemed more impressed with KaRon’s maturity at such a young age.
“KaRon is a good player and an even better person,” Tabb said. “I have coached a lot of kids who come to camp with talent thinking they know it all; they’re coaches at 15 years old.
“But KaRon isn’t like that. He’s like his brother Kahlil (Ali) – who I coached - in that he wants to be coached hard, he’s a sponge for knowledge about the game.”
THE ALI FAMILY HAS A HISTORY THAT WOULD BE HARD TO MATCH
Kahlil, who led the Indians to an undefeated regular season in 2022, was two-time All-State and two-time All-South Jersey selection. KaRon’s older brother All-Conference Player of the Year and a Maxwell football club award winner.
Kahlil also earned All-State and State Champion honors in track & field.
He just ended his freshman season at Boston College as a defensive back.
If you think those bloodlines are strong, facture in KaRon’s father Kareem played football at Temple (‘94-’98), his Mon Tasha ran track at Temple (‘94-’97) KaRon’s older brother, Kareem Jr. played football at Temple and Western Michigan (‘15-’19).
KARON PLAYED WELL WAITING FOR HIS TIME
Tabb said then freshman KaRon came in for Elijah Jennings in 2022, he did very well scoring five touchdowns.
KaRon said he was happy with his freshman season. He knew his time would be limited and the upper classmen were producing a good season.
But in 2023, the Indians finished 5-4, 2-2 in West Jersey - Liberty Division play.
Jennings rushed 146 times for 1,144 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Ali said 2023 wasn’t a good showing on offense for him, “at all,” he said, finishing with 273 yards on 56 carries and one touchdown (per online stats) .
KaRon said he knew there is succession to these things
“It was his senior season, we had to feed him the ball,” Ali said. “He had to go out with a bang his senior season.”
The young Ali continued
“It was not the season I expected for myself, I wasn’t really proud of myself and how I played,” Ali said just before a training session at Adrenaline Sports Performance in Cherry Hill. “I did play defense this year. I didn’t play defense my freshman year. I had a [interception] and about four pass deflections.”
KaRon reports he also compiled 20 tackles and a sack playing safety.
“Our line was so dominant up front,” Ali said. “I only had to worry about the pass game, and obviously support the running game…but they just did it for me.”
KaRon was asked if playing both sides of the ball can help his game overall. If you are on defense, does it help having running back skills to help anticipate where a running back on the other team may be cutting to?
“You can’t really translate from offense to defense,” Ali said. “What you do on defense is defense. Defense is better because you have to learn what kind of offense [the other team] is running by watching film to learn the little things they do. Defense is real technical. But you still have to be aggressive."
Ali continued to talk about the different skill sets on ech side of the ball.
“It has its advantages and disadvantages,” he said. “As an offensive player you know where you are going. You give off certain things, little details about…if it’s run play and I’m going to my left, I’ll nod my head or do a certain thing (lose the defender).”
Adrenaline Sports Performance owner Chad Hallett, who trains KaRon at his Cherry Hill facility, talked about the Ali legacy.
“KaRon comes from a great lineage of football players,” Hallet said. “His dad Kareem, Sr) played at Temple, his older brother (Kareem, Jr) was a US Army High School All American and also played at Temple and has a brother currently at Boston college, so it's no surprise that KaRon would be on the same path as them.
“The one thing in common that the guys who previously came through Adrenaline and made it to the next level…all possess is great work ethic and KaRon has it!
“In the offseason we will continue to fine tune his speed and add more muscle mass to his frame so he can attack his campaign next season.”
TWO FULL SEASONS TO MAKE HIS MARK
KaRon still has two high school seasons in front of him, but he was asked if he wants to play safety or running back at next level?
“I see myself playing as a defensive back, not a running back,” Ali said. “I can last longer and not take as many hits to my body.”
Karon, who lists Tyrann Mathieu, safety New Orleans Saints, possibly soon-to-be former Giants running back Saquon Barkley and Giants safety Xavier McKinney as NFL players he admires, said he is focused on running back this year…and wants a big year.
“Next year, I want to run for a thousand yards, I really do,” Ali said. “I know I can do that. I know what I’m capable of.”
KaRon was asked if good stats translate to wins. “I agree,” Ali said. “If you have players and they’re dawgs and playmakers, you’re most likely going to have wins down the road, during the season. It just carries on.”
It appears that KaRon has the desire and talent to keep the Ali name carrying on.*
* Some stats from bceagles.com
* Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org