Marysville Pilchuck’s Kenai Sinaphet (left) takes the hand-off from head coach Dalton Schwetz during the first day of fall practice Wednesday afternoon at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Marysville Pilchuck’s Kenai Sinaphet (left) takes the hand-off from head coach Dalton Schwetz during the first day of fall practice Wednesday afternoon at Marysville-Pilchuck High School. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

‘Fresh start’ for Marysville Pilchuck under new coach Schwetz

The Tomahawks begin practice without longtime coach Brandon Carson, who stepped down following last year’s playoff run.

MARYSVILLE — It’s the start of a new era for the Marysville Pilchuck High School football team.

After a 15-season stint that included at least a share of seven league titles, seven state playoff berths and two state semifinal appearances, longtime Tomahawks coach Brandon Carson stepped down following the team’s run to the Class 3A semifinals in 2021.

Now at the reigns of the MP program is Dalton Schwetz, a 2013 Burlington-Edison graduate and first-time head football coach.

For years under Carson, MP was known for its deceptive, run-based Slot-T offense, a variation of the Wing-T offense that’s run by many programs at the high school level.

Like the coaching staff, that will change this season.

Schwetz said the Tomahawks will keep the same physical style that shined during the previous coaching regime, but spectators can expect to see the ball in the air more than in previous years as the team switches to more of a power-spread attack.

“We’re going to hang our hat very similarly to what’s been done in the past in terms of mentality,” Schwetz said. “We’re going to have a physical downhill run game. You’re going to see guards pulling. We’re going to be very physical at the point of attack, and we’re going to get multiple guys the football in their hands in different ways.

“You guys saw all of that last year with how they did things, but the way we’re going to do it is going to be a little different. You will see some more wide receivers on the field, we won’t have as many backs and we’ll spread things out a little more.”

Schwetz joins MP after spending the past three seasons as an assistant coach at Coconino High School in Flagstaff, Arizona. His duties during his tenure included time spent as an assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator.

He played safety at NCAA Division-III Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon. Schwetz joined the Pacific coaching staff as an unofficial graduate assistant during his senior year after suffering a season-ending injury, and was officially brought on to the staff the following year for a two-season stint, spending most of his time working with defensive backs and special teams.

“It was kind of funny. I was 22, 23 (years old) coaching guys that I played with, but it was really good for me,” Schwetz said. “I learned a lot. It solidified the fact that I definitely knew I wanted to coach.”

Schwetz said he reached out to a few coaches in the area a couple of years ago. One of those coaches was Carson. The two met in the MP weight room and talked football for about an hour. Schwetz came away impressed with the football program and the community’s overall support of athletics.

So when Carson stepped down and sent Schwetz an email saying that he should check out the job, the former Northwest Conference standout didn’t hesitate. He was happy where he was at, but couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come home and take over a program that impressed while he kept tabs from afar over the past couple years.

“What a run they had last year,” Schwetz said. “I’ve got a ton of respect for what those guys did on the coaching staff and for the players. That senior class last year was tremendous.”

Although he followed along with the success the Tomahawks had recently, Schwetz said he didn’t have much familiarity with the squad coming in.

With 21 players graduating last season, including eight all-league and six All-Area selections, MP’s new coach inherited a roster that has many players set to get their first chance at sustained playing time at the varsity level.

“I feel like MP is turning a page almost,” Schwetz said. “Again, that run last year, I have so much respect for those guys, but with some much turnover from the players as well as the coaching staff, I feel like now is as good a time for us to come in as a new staff and get the younger guys, or guys who maybe haven’t had a lot reps, to move forward together. I feel like it’s kind of lining up perfectly.”

Fresh off a two-day trek that included about 22 hours on the road, Schwetz arrived back in Washington the day before spring practices began at MP. He said the past three months — which included spring practices, summer camp and 7-on-7 tournaments — have been a “whirlwind.”

The most pressing objective over that time was building bonds between players and the new coaching staff.

“From the onset for me it was about relationship building — building trust between these guys and our coaches — and just not telling them what we’re all about, but actually having an opportunity to show them,” Schwetz said. “We got here Day 1 and just kind of let it rip from there.”

Schwetz’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by his new players.

“It’s really cool to see a new coach come in and just really buy in,” senior wide receiver/defensive back Miguel Chavez said. “I swear it’s a running joke among the team that the dude lives here.”

The chance to start running a new system has also been exciting.

“It’s a great new system, and it’s nice it’s kind of a fresh start,” senior running back/linebacker Christian Van Natta said. “We get to see what we can really do.”

Chavez added that a few new players came out for the team this year because of the addition of more passing in the offense.

“We have a bunch of people who are ready to go out there and catch the ball,” Chavez said.

The Tomahawks defense will look a bit different this year, too. The changes won’t be drastic. Schwetz said MP plans to use multiple looks defensively, which is something the team did last year as well.

One of the biggest challenges facing the Tomahawks on the defensive side will be replacing standout linebacker Noah Faber, who announced last week on Twitter that he’s missing his senior season due to an ACL injury. The first-team All-Area selection was one of the few starters returning on either side of the ball for MP.

“The first thing is that I feel for Noah,” Schwetz said. “In my short time I’ve been here, there’s not a kid that’s worked hard or been a better leader. … Not having him as our anchor does hurt us. Knowing now allows us to move some more younger guys there and to get them up to speed before Game 1.”

There will be plenty of new faces on the field and sideline for MP this season, but as Van Natta pointed out, that’s not always a bad thing.

“We just have to go out there and give it our best,” Van Natta said. “Having younger guys, too, it helps, because they’ve really got a fire under their (butts) to go out there, play their best and prove what they’ve got.”

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