High School Football

They share a name, a friendship and the workload for Mount Baker, but the similarities end there

The Mount Baker football team’s Carson Brandland, left, and Carson Engholm may be different on and off the field, but they play big roles in the backfield.
The Mount Baker football team’s Carson Brandland, left, and Carson Engholm may be different on and off the field, but they play big roles in the backfield. The Bellingham Herald

Mount Baker football coach Ron Lepper admits it’s a little bit of a problem – he’ll bellow “CARSON” to give instructions to his running back in practice, and two sets of eyes turn and focus on him.

But then again, anyone who’s ever heard Lepper at practice knows people three football fields away are likely to turn and face him when he’s at full throat.

“We’ve gotten to the point where Coach will call him ‘Carson’ and me ‘Brandland,’” Carson Brandland said about fellow senior Carson Engholm.

To be honest, neither Carson is particularly offended being mistaken for the other. They’ve grown up friends since they competed against each other in elementary school and beside each other at middle school and now play alongside each other in the Mountaineers’ backfield.

“They’re both really good dudes,” Lepper said. “They’re guys that have come through the ranks for us. They’re willing to do whatever we ask them to do.”

What Mount Baker is asking them to do Friday night is help the Mountaineers reach the state playoffs for a sixth straight year with victory over visiting King’s in the Class 1A Northwest District Playoffs.

The duo has played a large role in helping Baker (6-3) get back to this point.

Engholm leads the team with 924 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing. Brandland, meanwhile, saw his carries increase when he shifted from the 2-back in the Mountaineers’ offense, where he was predominantly a run blocker and pass receiver, to the 3-back when Sam Barrett went down with injury. He’s reached triple-digit yardage the past three weeks and now has 618 yards and seven TDs this year.

They’ve helped hold us together through some injuries and adversity we’ve had this year – they’re kind of like security blankets.

Mount Baker coach Ron Lepper

“He’s always wanted to be a running back, and it’s neat to see him get a chance,” Engholm said, “and he’s definitely helped the team. He got a chance to make a name for himself, and he’s done a great job taking that role over for the team.”

Lepper said Brandland is more of a grinder – a player that’s been successful because of a lot of hard work and determination, just the way Mount Baker likes it. But he’s no plodder, Engholm said. He’s got surprising speed when he breaks into the open.

In fact, Brandland said he even beat Engholm in a last man standing type of running competition – something Engholm “was not happy about.”

“He’s a guy that’s on every special team we have,” Lepper said of Brandland. “He doesn’t say much. You almost lose him out there because he is so consistent and does his job. You respect him, because he gives you everything he has.”

What I notice is how he takes the time to talk to people that not a lot of kids talk to.

Carson Brandland on Carson Engholm

Engholm does the same, he just makes it look easy on game night, and there’s no way you’ll miss him. What most people don’t know, Lepper said, is how hard Engholm works behind the scenes and what a good leader he’s developed into.

That hard work allows him to play with a little “flash” when the lights turn on Friday nights, and as his touchdown total would suggest, that can translate into big plays for Baker.

“He’s more of a speed back than a power back, but he’s got plenty of power when he needs it,” Brandland said. “He can make a lot of things happen for us.”

Despite their differing on-field personalities, both Carsons enter Friday averaging 7.0 yards per game.

Not surprisingly, their personalities off the field are about as different as their styles on it.

He’s always wanted to be a running back, and it’s neat to see him get a chance, and he’s definitely helped the team.

Carson Engholm on Carson Brandland

While Brandland is friendly but reserved, Lepper said, Engholm is more outgoing, or “peppy,” as Brandland put it.

“He’s almost always in good spirits,” Brandland said. “He’s kind of the life of the room. .... What I notice is how he takes the time to talk to people that not a lot of kids talk to. We have a few special needs students, and he takes the time to talk to them. It’s really special, because I don’t know a lot of other guys that do that.”

Engholm is equally impressed with Brandland’s artistic abilities, particularly his drawing and sculptures. Brandland has already started looking for schools in the area that will allow him to continue studying art next year.

“That’s not something you think of for an average football player,” Engholm said, “but it’s something he’s really good at. I’ve seen some of his sculptures, and they’re really impressive.”

Together, the two of them have been pretty impressive for the Mountaineers and have them on the verge of continuing a string of unprecedented success.

“Both of them have been a pleasure to coach, as well as a number of other guys,” Lepper said. “They’ve helped hold us together through some injuries and adversity we’ve had this year – they’re kind of like security blankets.”

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