The Lake Stevens High School football team’s juggernaut offense boasted an extraordinary wealth of talent this season, including a deep array of skilled receivers and another elite quarterback in the program’s long line of polished passers.
But even with all of the aerial firepower, the Vikings’ high-scoring attack centered on the elusive and ultra-reliable Dallas Landeros churning out consistent chunks of yardage behind a powerful offensive line.
That was never more evident than in the opening round of the Class 4A state playoffs, when Landeros carried the ball a whopping 41 times for 275 yards and two touchdowns in a hard-fought victory over defending state champion Union.
Lake Stevens put the game in the hands of its senior running back, and he came through with a career-best performance to lead the Vikings into the state quarterfinals.
“We were blessed with all kinds of talent — from our quarterback (to) five or six receivers that can all run and catch and make guys miss after the catch,” Lake Stevens coach Tom Tri said. “But when your back’s up against the wall, you’re going to go with what your greatest strength is.”
Landeros rushed for 1,645 yards and 27 touchdowns this season, averaging 8.1 yards per carry and 150 yards per game while cutting off blocks from his bruising offensive line and making defenders miss with his shifty maneuverability. He also had 128 yards receiving and two touchdown catches.
And with the Vikings cruising to seven running-clock routs this fall, those gaudy numbers came despite Landeros often being on the sideline for most of the second half.
“He did all those things in really two or three quarters of work for the bulk of the season,” Tri said.
For his standout campaign and integral role in a high-powered Lake Stevens attack that averaged 51 points per game, Landeros is The Herald’s 2019 All-Area Offensive Player of the Year for high school football.
“We’ve had a lot of really good running backs over the past 15-plus years, but he’s certainly one of the best we’ve ever had,” Tri said.
For the vast majority of this past decade, the Vikings lit up scoreboards with high-octane offenses featuring a balanced mix of run and pass. But they’ve leaned more toward the run over the past two years, with their rushing rate climbing above 60 percent in both seasons.
The reason? Lake Stevens’ ground attack — led by Landeros and an offensive line that Tri said was the best in his two decades with the program — was often borderline unstoppable.
As a two-year starter, Landeros amassed over 3,000 yards rushing and 44 total touchdowns, helping lead the Vikings to the 4A state title game last season and the state quarterfinals this fall.
“The biggest key was the O-line, for sure,” Landeros said. “… (They) made the game so much easier.”
Yet while Landeros deflected credit, Tri heaped praise on his star running back’s vision, elusiveness and quick-cutting ability.
“All five of our offensive linemen had a great year, and that’s what helped open up holes for Dallas,” Tri said. “That being said, a lot of those yards were because of his vision — his ability to anticipate (and) see something. He’s able to set guys up and make guys miss and turn a 1-yard gain into a 7- or 8-yard gain.
“He can press the hole really well, but then sees and anticipates cutbacks as well as any back we’ve ever had,” Tri added. “His balance and ability to go from a speed cut to a jump cut to a power cut and back to a speed cut, that’s why I think he was able to get so (many extra) yards.”
And despite 390 carries over the past two seasons, Landeros fumbled just two times and never had a lost fumble.
“That, to me, is a remarkable stat with just how much we used him through his junior and senior year,” Tri said. “… We’ve never had a stat like that with any of our guys touching the ball that many times and protecting it that well.”
In a Week 2 non-league showdown against eventual 3A state semifinalist Lincoln, Landeros totaled 167 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns to lead Lake Stevens past the ultra-talented Abes. The following week, he amassed 285 total yards and five touchdowns in a 73-28 rout of archrival Monroe.
But his biggest performance was the 275-yard state-playoff outing against Union, when Landeros carried the ball on 41 of the Vikings’ 59 offensive snaps.
“I didn’t really notice it was 41 (carries) until like an hour after the game,” he said. “Then my body felt it.”
Landeros tweaked his ankle early in the third quarter, yet battled through to help Lake Stevens avenge its state-title game loss to Union from the year prior. With the Vikings facing third-and-11 in the closing moments, Landeros ran for a 12-yard gain to seal the victory.
“At the end of every series, I’d pull him aside and ask him, ‘Hey, do we need to give you a series off?’” Tri said. “And he goes, ‘No, no. This is my game, coach.’ … And you could just see it in his eyes and in his heart that there was no way he was coming off that field.
“Playing with a bum ankle, I think he rushed for another 100 yards there and kind of sealed the deal at the end of the game for us,” Tri added. “And that really kind of describes who Dallas is in a nutshell right there. That game was the epitome of the type of player and career that Dallas had for us.”
Yet for all of Landeros’ on-field accomplishments, Tri and running backs coach Jim Lussier gushed equally about his character, leadership and selflessness.
Earlier this season, Landeros postponed a recruiting visit to Central Washington University so that he instead could dress up as a superhero for the birthday party of a local 4-year-old whose family had experienced tough times. After hearing what Landeros was planning to do, eight teammates joined him in superhero costumes to surprise the young boy at his party.
“He had every right to go over and be recruited by Central and go to a Central football game and sit on their sidelines for free, (but) he chose out of the kindness of his heart to stay here and do something for his own community,” Tri said. “That’s just every bit as cool as anything I’ve ever seen before as a coach.”
Tri and Lussier also said Landeros’ unselfishness was evident in the second halves of Lake Stevens’ numerous blowouts.
“When he comes out of the game, he’s the biggest cheerleader on the sideline for the younger kids that are getting an opportunity to run the football,” Lussier said. “And you don’t (often) get that out of 18-year-old kids who are trying to go play college football — who need the video, who need the film, who need the stats. … You talk to Dallas, he’ll never take credit for nothing. It’s all about everybody else around him. It’s never about him.
“This kid is one of the most unselfish people I’ve ever been around,” Lussier added. “… This world needs a whole lot more Dallas Landeroses in it.”