When Lehi senior running back Carsen Manookin took the handoff for the very first offensive play from scrimmage at Timpanogos Thursday night, it appeared like it would be another grind-it-out moment for the tough, 5-foot-9, 190-pound ball-carrier.
“I thought it was stacked up, that we might have lost yards,” Pioneer head coach Ed Larson said after Lehi’s 52-0 win over the Timberwolves. “Suddenly I saw him squirt out of there.”
Manookin told Larson he spun off the Timpanogos defensive tackle and found an opening, then turned on the jets to sprint 63 yards to the end zone.
But Manookin isn’t the type of running back to laud his own talents.
“The line did a good job,” Manookin said. “I just worked off of them on that play. It always starts with them.”
That’s something the talented Pioneer has been saying for the last three years as he has been a key component in the Lehi offense since his days as a sophomore.
“He is a kid for whom football is like Christmas morning every day,” Larson said. “He loves coming to practice and takes my criticism because he loves being coached. He’s a ‘yes, sir’ or ‘no, sir’ guy who is always going to try to do his part.”
That is a mentality Manookin has brought to the Pioneers throughout his impressive career. Coming into Thursday’s game, the Lehi star had tallied 2,559 yards on 395 carries with 25 touchdowns in three years.
But Larson said his work-first mentality has meant more than the stats.
“He’s been a fun kid to have for three years,” Larson said. “He’s been a big piece of our personality because he just wants to go to work.”
Manookin has seen both tremendous success (the Pioneers went 12-2 and won the 5A title in 2017) and tough times (Lehi went 5-6 and lost in the first round of the 5A playoffs in 2018).
He said his goal has been to use whatever he can as personal and team-wide motivation.
“The biggest thing this year has been the work we have put in,” Manookin said. “It’s been in going to the weight room and going to camps. We wanted to put in the extra work to be good.”
He also is quick to deflect any personal credit for the team’s work ethic, pointing instead to the eight captains who are leading the way.
“I just want to try to do my job right when it needs to be done,” Manookin said. “I’m just going to do what needs to be done.”
The Pioneers will need him to continue to grind out the tough yards and make big plays when they are there. Larson said Manookin also does a great job in Lehi’s pass protection scheme, which has allowed Pioneer quarterbacks time to get the ball down the field.
Lehi is coming up on the meat of its schedule, so there are tough games ahead. When asked about the challenges in front of his team, Manookin couldn’t help but grin.
“I’m excited for it,” Manookin said. “It’s a tough schedule but we are going to work our tails off. We’ll work for everything we get.”
That starts on Sept. 20 when the Pioneers (4-1, 1-0) host Provo before three straight road games at Timpview, at Alta and at Taylorsville. Lehi closes out the regular season by hosting Orem.
“These next five weeks will define us as a team,” Larson said. “This will show us who we are and what we can accomplish.”