Poland: Allen Wahlstrom enjoying life as DC of the undefeated Bialystok Lowlanders

When the unbeaten Bialystok Lowlanders (2-0) take on the 3-0 Bydgoszcz Archers in the Polish Football League this weekend, defensive coordinator Allen Wahlstrom will be coaching in only his third game in Europe.

It definitely didn’t take him long to get comfortable.

The 54 year old who lives in Richland, Washington but was raised in Aledo, Texas, has taken over a defense that gave up 22 points a game in 2020. With a background that includes coaching and playing not only  football but track and cycling as well, (he was sought after by major colleges as both high school football player and track athlete before a knee injury ended his career) Wahlstrom brings a breadth of experience to the Lowlanders unlike most others. Not only are his players learning the finer points of football but they are learning how to run faster.

And it shows. The team has allowed just 19 points in two games, which tops the league.

Allen Wahlstrom and #23 Krzysztof Polak Photo: Bialystok Lowlanders

This week, Wahlstrom was asked about being a defensive coordinator in a new country, about his players and about the Lowlanders’ upcoming opponents, the undefeated Bydgoszcz Archers.

How do you feel as a defensive coordinator in a new country, on a new team?

Wahlstrom: Honestly, it’s football no matter where we play it, but it is special to be able to come to Poland and lead the Lowlanders Defense. The biggest challenge has been adjusting to the weather and the language. The players are eager to learn, and take coaching well. The fact that it just feels like football, not Polish or European football is fantastic. I didn’t have preconceived notions about football here, and did not settle on what defense we were going to run until I arrived, and its still morphing to fit our athletes skillset. So in that way, its just football, but coaching here feels pretty natural, and the atmosphere around this program is special. I could not be happier with the decision to accept the offer.

What can you say about your defense after two games? You have a lot of young players as well as a few veterans. You might have some difficult decisions to make about personnel. How does that feel?

WahlstromWe have a lot of young guys in key places, even one of our imports is still pretty young, so our back end is really young, but we are growing them up fast! Krzysztof Polak #23 was a huge question mark before the Warsaw Mets game, and he came out with a great performance including the Pick 6 that sealed the game, and followed it up with another really solid outing against the Warsaw Eagles. Add in Janek Sawicki #18 who wasn’t scheduled to start at Free Safety or Corner but after Yan Khalimon #42 was wrongly ejected against the Warsaw Mets he jumped in and played like a veteran. That led to his start against the Eagles where he was tested over and over but never broke. I’m really excited for the future of this team with these guys. We’ve played many downs on the D-Line with both Jakub Radziszewski #98 and Hubert Klejna #97, and the boys have been up to the challenge. Of course veteran leadership from Damian Wesołowski #67, Konrad Paszkiewicz #51 and Daniel Tarnawski #57 help a lot, but the reps these guys are getting will be invaluable going forward. We have guys who have been on the field when the game was on the line, that is important.

So far we have been able to put incredible pressure on the passer in both games with 12 sacks so far (Wesołowski 4) and solid coverage, Our Mike (Jahor Latkouski #55) has already gotten as many tackles as he had last season. With a full defensive line including Adam Roszkowski #5 we are going to be a problem for offensive coordinators. Add in “Little Pasha II” Eryk Paszkiewicz #52 (another one of our young guys) who had a pair of sacks against the Eagles, and we have not only a starting front four, but talented guys getting reps behind them.

That said, we are still a work in progress, and we haven’t put together a complete game yet. Our defensive front is the strength right now, and our DB’s have been tested 40-50 times a game, so we had to grow up under pressure and so far the young guys are holding up well.

Have you watched the Archers yet? Do you have a plan to stop them?

Wahlstrom: Yes, I’ve watched their games many times, and they are a good football team. On film they are more complete than the Falcons, and will give us our toughest challenge of the season. The Archers QB is a backyard baller. He is going to keep plays alive and make things happen with his feet. A different QB than we have faced in a game so far, but we see that in practice every day with Derrick Evans, and we just held a veteran running QB to 70ish yards, and Ash had run regularly in his first outing, so a running QB is not something we aren’t prepared for, we just need to play sound defense and keep him in the box. Playing sound football on the back end and pressure from the front four should put us in good shape next weekend.

What can you say about the level of football after four weeks in Poland?

Wahlstrom: There are some really gifted athletes here, both imports and some of the veterans like our #51 #57 and #67, and some young guys who are going to be really, really good as they get older. I’ve talked to a lot of my coaching colleagues at home and when asked I’ve compared the talent to NAIA-DII level.  The difference is at the top end of players it is solidly DII, with some of the domestic guys capable of playing at the FCS level. But, every team has lower tier guys playing in critical positions. That will change as we attract more players to the game.

While I’d love to have two Americans on both sides of the ball, I really like that this league limits it and forces teams to develop young/domestic guys. That is going to grow the sport. The best young guys will get the opportunity to play and not sit behind an import every year.

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