Lakeville South quarterback Camden Dean once described a game against teammate Zach Juckel that perfectly sums up the Carson Hansen experience.
Dean gave it to Hansen, performed a fake, then looked to the end of the field where he expected Hansen to run. He wasn’t there.
Where was he?
“He went running across the field for a touchdown,” Juckel said. “That’s the vision.”
That’s what sets Hansen apart from the field. Yes, Lakeville South coach Ben Burk noted, the junior running back has sparkling speed. When he gets to the second level, he’s gone. But it’s his ability to consistently get to that level that’s so special.
“He has the ability to cut defenses that you can’t coach,” Burk said. “You can coach the technique a little bit, but you either have it or you don’t.”
The spearhead of the powerful hasty attack that the undefeated Cougars have in Friday night’s Class 6A state title game against Maple Grove, Hansen is the Pioneer Press East Metro Footballer of the Year.
Burk recalls one of the early practices of Hansen’s second season. The coaching staff knew at that point that Hansen would be good, “We just didn’t know at what point and how fast.” They soon found out.
Hansen cut a rep where he bounced the game out for minimal gain. Burk pulled his back and said, “Carson, this isn’t sophomore football.” Yes, he was fast, but you can’t just bounce everything out on the varsity level. “What we want you to do,” Burk told him, “is cut against the grain, and then you can get eight to ten yards each time instead of three or four.”
Sure enough, in one of Hansen’s first runs of the season, he cut all the way back across the field and scored.
“It was like, ‘Well, I never have to coach that again, because he saw what happened,'” Burk said.
Hansen hasn’t looked back since. He has 1,959 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns for a whopping 12.6 yards per carry and has scored an additional four touchdowns on pass receptions. Hansen is one of, if not the most explosive player in the subway.
“I just love that elusive part, where you just shake some kids and then go to the end zone,” Hansen said. “Let’s just miss this man and bring him home. That’s what’s going through my head.”
He often does. Hansen has had a ball in his hands since he was 1 year old. He has been a running back since he was 4. He has the speed and the elusiveness, and is getting bigger by the day. Burk said the back is approaching 200 pounds. This combination has sparked the interest of power conference schools.
Despite the success, attention and accolades, Burk noted, Hansen remains humble. He went out of his way to credit his offensive line as well as his coaches and trainers.
“He’s the humblest kid, and he understands it’s an 11-man game and he’s just part of it,” Burk said. “But he’s doing his part very well.”
Cougars tight end Chase Androff said it’s “enlightening” to hear a play call in the huddle aimed at Hansen. You know, he said, “It’ll work.”
It’s common for Lakeville South coaches to talk on the sidelines about what to call next if the current call gets a first down. The conversation grinds to a halt when they turn to see Hansen running down the sidelines for a touchdown.
The Lakeville South offense gets so much attention because of the Power-T scheme, with all the fakes and moves leaving opponents guessing who even has the ball. But Burk has commented on numerous occasions that the offense is intended to get four meters and a cloud of dust for long, sustained rides.
Hansen goes much further than that.
“He can take runs that some running backs might shut up, a really good 10-yard gain, but he can extend that game and take it to a 50-yard touchdown,” Juckel said. “All credit to the offensive line, but he is a special running back. He has great vision; his speed and athleticism takes it to another level.”
Burk said Hansen would be just as successful in another offense, he just gets a lot of chances in this one.
“He’s kind of a matchup nightmare,” Burk said. “As (legendary Lakeville coach Larry) Thompson always tells me, guys like him make you look like a really smart coach.”
Leo Bluhm, senior offensive lineman, St. Thomas Academy: At 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, Bluhm paved the way for the Cadets’ dominant hasty attack.
Joey Gerlach, Senior Defender, Woodbury: South Dakota State commit had 79 tackles from the clear safety position. Played on every special team unit and scored eight touchdowns in limited offensive duty.
Peyton Gremmels, Senior Receiver, Academy Force: Caught 70 passes for 1,134 yards and 11 scores on offense. Added 82 tackles and three interceptions on defense, all while playing with an injured shoulder.
Lucas Heyer, senior offensive lineman, Hill-Murray: Stanford Commit is the highest-ranking recruit in the Class of 2022. Did not let go this year and sparked the Pioneers’ explosive attack.
Carson Hinzman, senior lineman, St. Croix Central: The highly regarded offensive lineman was named Wisconsin defensive lineman of the year for small school. Counted 16 tackles for losses.
Zack Juckel, senior linebacker, Lakeville South: Had 115 tackles and 7½ sacks. One of the state’s most versatile defensive players.
Logan Larson, senior defensive lineman, East Ridge: The state of North Dakota commits five sacks. Led the defense of the awesome Raptors.
Sawyer Seidl, junior running back, Hill Murray: Junior rushed for 1,878 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also wreaking havoc in the return game.
Isaiah Ward, senior lineman, Centennial: Two-way stance registered four sacks on defense as he capitalized on Centennial’s powerful hasty attack on offense.
Mason Wilson, senior defensive lineman, Stillwater: Counted 52 tackles, including seven for losses, anchoring Stillwater’s strong defensive front.