Like many young running backs, Dylan Carson had players he idolized when he was a youth football player.
But Carson’s football heroes weren’t the typical names like Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson or any of the other NFL rushing stars of the past decade.
Instead, Carson’s idols were Marysville Pilchuck High School running backs Austin Joyner and Killian Page, who starred in the backfield during the Tomahawks’ run to the Class 3A state semifinals in 2014.
Carson, the son of longtime MP head coach Brandon Carson, spent many hours growing up around the program, whether it was hanging around the weight room as a young boy in the summers or hopping into conditioning drills as he got closer to high school. When the Tomahawks made the semifinals in 2014, he had a front-row seat while serving as one of the team’s ball boys.
“Being so close to them and spending so much time with them, they were on a whole other level to me,” Dylan Carson said.
During a record-setting senior season, Dylan Carson reached levels even Joyner and Page didn’t achieve in a Tomahawk uniform.
The senior running back set single-season school records with 2,671 yards and 46 touchdowns rushing while averaging a whopping 12.5 yards per carry.
He even flirted with breaking single-season 11-man football state records. According to stats kept by state prep football historian David Maley, the MP star’s 2,671 yards rushing ranked eighth all-time and his 46 all-purpose TDs third.
“It’s kind of astonishing,” Dylan Carson said. “I never would have thought that I would have put up those numbers.”
And on defense he was a versatile playmaker who lined up all over the field for MP in a hybrid role, racking up 76 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, four sacks and four passes defended along the way.
His efforts helped lead the Tomahawks to an 11-2 season and their first trip back to the state semifinals since Joyner and Page led the way.
For his spectacular senior season, Dylan Carson is The Herald’s 2021 All-Area Football Player of the Year.
Dylan Carson’s game-by-game stat line on offense was certainly astonishing.
His season started with a 210-yard, three-touchdown performance against Shorecrest and followed with even bigger numbers against 3A state qualifier Stanwood. He trampled the Spartans for 316 yards and five scores in what ended up being his second-most productive day on the ground during the season.
In games against Marysville Getchell, Oak Harbor and Mount Vernon, MP cruised to running-clock wins and Dylan Carson wasn’t on the field much in the second half. Still, he combined for 480 yards and 12 touchdowns on just 24 carries — good for an absurd 20 yards a pop.
“He probably could’ve put up bigger numbers,” Brandon Carson said. “… I can probably count on one hand how many times he carried the ball 20 times in a game. Early in the season it was 8, 10, 12 (carries).”
When MP faced a midseason test against Wesco 3A North co-champion Ferndale, Dylan Carson diced up the Golden Eagles for 225 yards and five scores.
And when the state playoffs came around, the hard-running senior somehow kicked it into another gear. He broke MP’s single-season rushing record after his 281-yard, three-TD outing in a 52-21 win over Garfield in the first round. Then, he set the program’s single-game rushing record with 427 yards and five TDs in a 39-21 quarterfinal victory over unbeaten Yelm, busting lengthy touchdown runs of 53, 65 and 90 yards along the way.
“It was crazy,” Brandon Carson said. “He was playing at a different level that day.”
In total, Dylan Carson scored four or more TDs in eight games, ran for over 200 yards in seven and broke off 17 scoring runs of at least 40 yards.
“It was awesome,” MP senior guard Nate Elwood said of blocking for his standout running back and longtime friend. “We’d be on our own 10-yard line and we’d be thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve got a long drive ahead of us.’ And then one play, 90-yard touchdown.”
And as if Dylan Carson didn’t do enough for the Tomahawks with his offensive production, his versatility was a key factor for a defense that allowed just 16.7 points per game.
Dylan Carson is listed as an outside linebacker but moved down to the line or back into the secondary as the Tomahawks’ 4-2-5 scheme threw different looks at opponents based on matchups and situations. And regardless of where he was at, Carson made plays.
“Because of his gaudy offensive numbers, I think he’s a little overlooked as a defensive player,” Brandon Carson said, “because he’s really good on defense.”
When Dylan Carson had his record-setting day on offense against Yelm, he also had 10 tackles — two for loss — on defense.
Brandon Carson credited his do-it-all star’s ability to understan opposing offenses and knowing where to be on the field to make stops.
For Dylan Carson, his senior season was the culmination of a highly productive high school career.
He made an instant impact as a sophomore in 2019, churning out 1,409 yards and 16 TDs as the second leading rusher on an MP squad that made the state quarterfinals. At the time, he weighed in at just 163 pounds.
Dylan Carson knew he needed to get bigger and stronger to bring his game to the next level while being a between-the-tackles runner in the Tomahawks’ Slot-T offense. He bulked up to 195 pounds as a junior during the shortened spring season and gave the area a glimpse of what was in store this fall when ran for 911 yards and 14 TDs in just five games.
“Spending those tough hours in the weight room every single week, honestly that’s what I have to thank all my success to,” he said. “I couldn’t thank the weight room more because that’s where true athletes are made.”
Dylan Carson also credited the many hours he spent dissecting film over the years, which aided his ability to set runs up at the second level and put himself in position to break many of the lengthy runs he had throughout the season.
He started watching film of his own games by the sixth grade. When he and his dad came home from a game on Friday night once he was in high school, they were quick to hit the tapes, reflect on what had just happened and strategize for the following week.
Those nights, along with countless other moments spent around the football field and MP program, are ones Dylan and Brandon Carson cherish. Football has created a unique bond for the father-son duo.
“It’s been wonderful,” Dylan Carson said. “I don’t think I would be so close to my father (without football). I mean, all these years of spending every single minute together … it’s a blessing to share something that close with my father.”
“I enjoyed every second of it,” Brandon Carson said. “He was a pleasure to coach. I’ll miss it. That’s for sure. It’s been special, and he made it special with how much he loves this game and how hard he works at it.”