BROCKWAY, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Alex Carlson hadn’t played football since the fourth grade, but here he was in the summer of 2021, lining up at wide receiver for Brockway during a 7-on-7 drill against DuBois.
The junior had no idea what he was doing.
(Pictured above, Brockway’s Alex Carlson swoops in to make an interception to help the Rovers secure a 7-3 win over Redbank Valley in the D9 Class A semifinals on Saturday/photo by Madison McFarland)
Soccer was his sport. Kicking a ball, not catching it, was what he was most comfortable doing on a field.
On Carlson’s first play of the scrimmage, the ball came his way.
He leapt and made a one-handed catch.
“All the coaches were like, ‘Whoa! This guy is crazy,’” Carlson said.
On the next play, he made another reception before jawing back and forth with several DuBois players.
“It was getting a little feisty,” Carlson said, chuckling. “I didn’t even know what I was doing out there — they were telling me what route to run right before I went out there to run it. I caught the ball and they threw me to the ground and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s how it’s gonna be.’ Right there, I felt like I was in a brotherhood because all the players came over and pulled me back and defended me.”
Carlson certainly knows how to make an impression.
He had a standout campaign during his first season for the Rovers, catching 71 passes for 791 yards and four touchdowns.
This season, he’s been even better with 85 receptions for 1,010 yards and 13 TDs.
He’s also tasked with covering the most dangerous receiving threat on the other team as a cornerback.
“Alex is such a character. He’s everything you could want in a football player,” said Brockway head football coach Jake Heigel. “He’s nasty. He’s mean. He’s athletic. He’s the type of player where you can trust him with the ball and you can trust him on defense to cover the best player on the other team. He’s a kid we’re so blessed to have.”
Brockway almost didn’t have him.
For the first two years of his high school career, Carlson was strictly a soccer player with little desire to play football.
Heigel made several recruiting pitches to Carlson, to no avail.
Finally, Carlson relented — under one condition.
He could still play soccer.
Head boys soccer coach Andy Daugherty and Heigel worked out the logistics and Carlson was ready to be a two-sport star during the fall.
“It doesn’t work if me and Coach Daugherty don’t work together on it,” Heigel said. “To say Alex has been a pleasure to coach is an understatement. I’ve really enjoyed our back and forth together.”
The learning curve was surprisingly flat for Carlson when it came to football.
It didn’t take him long to grasp the finer points. It took him even less time to make an impact.
“I mean, I was surprised in a different way than you would expect,” Carlson said. “Growing up, I was a pretty good athlete, so transitioning to a new sport that I hadn’t played yet last year, it kind of came naturally to me. I just love the coaching staff and the other players that helped me learn during that process.”
Carlson has also shown how selfless he can be on the football field.
In a 7-3 win over Redbank Valley that sent Brockway to the District 9 Class A championship game where it will face Port Allegany at Bradford on Friday night, Carlson had zero catches and just one target.
He didn’t care.
“He had nothing to say after the game or during the game about not getting touches,” Heigel said. “That’s the type of player he is. He’s really, really grown as a person and has absolutely turned into a monster on the football field.”
Carlson said he knew the game plan was heavy on the run and his opportunities on offense would be limited.
His main goal was getting the victory.
“I just love to win,” Carlson said. “If I can help the team win by not touching the ball, then I guess I’ll do that, too.”
But Carlson did touch the ball on what was ultimately the play of the game against Redbank Valley.
Leading 7-3 late, Redbank’s Braydon Wagner let go of a pass intended for Tate Minich, who had cut through Brockway’s zone and had several steps on the nearest defender, who happened to be Carlson.
But Carlson made up the ground, intercepting the pass on a dead run at the 1 to end the threat.
The Rovers ran out the clock on their possession.
“They drew up a pretty good play against that coverage,” Carlson said. “That was the beater to our coverage, but I was just kind of aware of the beater. I was looking at that guy the whole time. That wasn’t even my guy. I just had a feeling I had to go catch up to him.”
Carlson did and picked off his sixth pass of the season.
“When the ball was in the air, I started tracking it,” Carlson said. “It looked like a good throw to me. I kind of caught it in stride.”
It was certainly one of Carlson’s biggest moments on the football field.
He’s had plenty of them on the soccer pitch.
The Rovers went 19-1 last season and won their third straight District 9 Class A championship. This season was a bit of a disappointing one as Brockway went 8-10 and lost in double overtime to Brookville in the district playoffs.
He hopes those three D9 titles in soccer helps him prepare for the district football championship game.
“I kind of know this feeling of preparation and excitement getting ready for the game,” Carlson said. “I feel like I have an edge there. I’m trying to boost the confidence of our team going into the game, making sure they’re not nervous.”
Carlson said he hasn’t given playing a sport in college much thought.
He has had some interest in both now.
“Yeah, I’ve just kind of been slow on that,” Carlson said. “I haven’t applied anywhere yet. I’ve been putting it off for no reason.”
His dry humor comes to the fore.
“I don’t really like to lift weights,” he added. “It makes me sore. Really bad. So, if I can get past that sort of stage and lift, I could see myself playing a sport in college. I feel like I can play either football or soccer.”