Lakeville South quarterback Camden Dean once described a play to teammate Zach Juckel that perfectly sums up the Carson Hansen experience.
Dean handed off to Hansen, carried out a fake, then looked to the end of the field where he expected Hansen to be running. He wasn’t there.
Where was he?
“He was going down the other side of the field running for a touchdown,” Juckel said. “That’s the vision.”
It’s what separates Hansen from the field. Yes, Lakeville South coach Ben Burk noted, the junior running back has scintillating speed. If 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 off of defenses that you can’t coach,” Burk said. “You can coach the technique a little bit, but you’ve either got it or you don’t.”
The spearhead of the potent rushing attack that has the undefeated Cougars in the Class 6A state title game Friday night against Maple Grove, Hansen is the Pioneer Press East Metro football Player of the Year.
Burk remembers one of the first practices of Hansen’s sophomore season. The coaching staff knew at that point Hansen would be good, “We just didn’t know at what point and how soon.” They quickly found out.
Hansen made a cut on a rep where he bounced the play outside for a minimal gain. Burk pulled the back aside and said, “Carson, this isn’t sophomore football.” Yes, he was fast, but you can’t just bounce everything outside at the varsity level. “What we want you to do,” Burk told him, “is cut back against the grain, and then you’re going to be able to get eight to 10 yards every time as opposed to three or four.”
Sure enough, in one of Hansen’s first runs of the season, he cut back all the way 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 on 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 metro.
“I just like that elusiveness part, where you just shake some kids and then get to the end zone,” Hansen said. “Let’s just make this guy miss and let’s take it to the house. That’s what goes through my mind.”
He does that often. Hansen has had a ball in his hands since he was 1 year old. He’s been a running back since he was 4. He’s got the speed and the elusiveness, and is growing bigger by the day. Burk said the back is nearing 200 pounds. That combination has piqued the interest of power conference schools.
In spite of 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 most humble kid, and he understands that it’s an 11-man game and he’s just a part of it,” Burk said. “But he does his part really well.”
Cougars tight end Chase Androff said it’s “relieving” to hear a play call in the huddle directed toward Hansen. You just know, he said, “That’s going to work.”
There are many times when Lakeville South’s coaches will be talking on the sideline about what they want to call next should the current call pick up a first down. The conversation comes to a screeching halt when they turn and watch Hansen run down the sidelines for a touchdown.
Lakeville South’s offense gets so much attention for its Power-T scheme, with all the fakes and movement that keep opponents guessing as to who even has the ball. But Burk has noted on numerous occasions that the offense is designed to get four yards and a cloud of dust for long, sustained drives.
Hansen takes it well beyond that.
“He can take runs that maybe some running backs would get still, really, a good 10-yard gain, but he can extend that play and get it to a 50-yard touchdown,” Juckel said. “All the credit to the offensive line, but he is a special running back. He’s got great vision; his speed and athleticism takes it to a different level.”
Burk said Hansen would be just as successful in another offense, he just gets a lot of opportunity in this one.
“He’s kind of a matchup nightmare,” Burk said. “Like (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 rushing attack.
Joey Gerlach, senior defensive back, Woodbury: South Dakota State commit had 79 tackles from the free safety position. Played on every special teams 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-ranked recruit in the Class of 2022. Didn’t allow a sack this year and spurred the Pioneers’ explosive rushing attack.
Carson Hinzman, senior lineman, St. Croix Central: Highly-touted offensive lineman was named Wisconsin’s small school defensive lineman of the year. Tallied 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: North Dakota State commit tallied five sacks. Led great Raptors’ defense.
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 standout recorded four sacks on defense while keying Centennial’s potent rushing attack on offense.
Mason Wilson, senior defensive lineman, Stillwater: Tallied 52 tackles, including seven for losses, as anchor of Stillwater’s strong defensive front.
State football roundup: Minneota, Mayer Lutheran reach Class A final
High school football: Lakeville South off to Class 6A title game with win over St. Michael-Albertville
State football semifinals: Mahtomedi rolls over short-handed Cooper to reach 5A final
High school football roundup: Rice Lake falls in Wisconsin’s Division 3 final
High school football: Maple Grove rolls past Eden Prairie to advance to Class 6A title game