By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
MARYSVILLE — Having senior Kacey Walker and sophomore Austin Joyner in the same backfield has been a nice “problem” for Marysville Pilchuck football coach Brandon Carson to deal with this season.
The running backs are the Wesco 3A North Division’s top two rushers. Joyner has rushed for 1,917 yards and 21 touchdowns on 135 carries while Walker has rushed for 1,466 yards and 11 touchdowns on 172 carries. In addition to averaging 14.2 yards per carry, Joyner also has caught 13 passes for 201 yards and scored two touchdowns. Walker’s yards per carry average isn’t to shabby either at 8.5.
Rushing for nearly 2,000 yards puts Joyner in pretty rare air — and he is just 15 years old.
“I think it’s very rare,” Marysville Pilchuck coach Brandon Carson said. “We’ve only had it happen once. I think it’s incredibly rare. I think the rarest thing is his yards per carry. He’s obviously broken quite a few long runs and that’s helped him a lot. He’s obviously a gifted athlete.”
Joyner had a big night in the Tomahawks’ opening round state victory, rushing for more than 220 yards. On Saturday, Joyner and Walker will try to help the Tommies move one step closer to the championship when they play host to second-ranked Eastside Catholic at Quil Ceda Stadium.
The two running backs have carried much of the load for the Tomahawks offense all season and neither player played a significant role on varsity a year ago. Walker is in his first year as a varsity contributor and Joyner came up late last season, scoring six touchdowns in the final three games.
“We had a pretty good idea of what Austin could be,” Carson said. “And he has turned out to be everything we thought he would be. Kacey has been a big surprise to us. Coming into the season, he was probably our backup fullback. The guy that we thought would start ended up breaking his hand early in the preseason and Kacey just stepped up from game one and has been rolling since. I’m really proud of him.”
Walker handles the bulk of the inside runs for Marysville Pilchuck, while Joyner is more of an outside runner, but both players have the ability to break a long run at any time. And there is no question that both players feed off each other’s success.
“It just makes a lot of sense to have two backs, one outside and one inside because you just have to commit and decide, and if you commit wrong you are going to be watching us run all the way into that end zone,” Walker said.
What makes the Marysville Pilchuck’s offense so dynamic? The offensive scheme, Joyner said.
“I would say it’s our diversion on offense and the plays we run,” Joyner said. “Every play we run pretty much looks the same. You don’t know who has the ball until it’s too late and by then we already have a few steps on you and that’s all we need.”
The more Walker finds success up the middle, the more it opens up the outside for Joyner and vice-versa.
“I think when Joyner runs hard every time on his motion, they think he has the ball and then I have it and I’m down the field,” Walker said. “Or when I’m down the field and I get blown up by three guys they think I have it and all these guys crash and Joyner goes around.”
Deception is a big part of the offense, Carson said, noting that opponents struggle to read the Tomahawks because the formations look the same.
“That’s our goal,” Carson said. “When we run the fly sweep, we want you to think that the fly sweep guy has the ball, when really the fullback has the ball or maybe vice versa. We will fake (to) the fullback and run fly sweep. It’s always nice when we are doing team (offense) and the defense is like, ‘who has the ball?’ We work hard at it.
“Deception is part of our offense.”
Being a senior, Walker didn’t have to worry much about gaining the respect of his teammates. Joyner on the other hand is just a sophomore — but one who plays and carries himself with much more maturity than his age would indicate.
“Most people don’t know I’m a sophomore,” Joyner said. “If they were just to see me or talk to me or anything like that. I seem older I guess. So no one treats me as if I am younger.”
Walker has another theory.
“I would say those touchdowns might have earned him a little bit of respect,” he said. “I sure like watching him do it.”
The Tomahawks will need a few more of those touchdowns from Joyner and Walker this weekend and the next to get to the state championship game. And even though the team is taking it one day at a time, Walker admits that they have thought about getting to the championship and getting a shot at perennial power Bellevue.
“We are high school players, it’s what we think about,” Walker said. “It’s the only thing that’s said at school. Obviously, you would never hear any of that out here (on the field), but around school when coach is off doing his own thing and he is at the other school and we are allowed to say a couple of things we normally wouldn’t say around him.
“I would say there has been some talk of it. But it’s a hope, because, you know, you have to work to get to it. And it’s going to remain a hope unless we do the things right that it takes to get to the title game.”