Central Decatur senior Dalton Gilbert earned first-team all-state honors as a running back in Class 1A by the Iowa Newspaper Association with assistance from the Iowa Football Coaches Association.
This marks the second straight year Gilbert has earned first-team honors, after being named a first-team linebacker last year. Gilbert was also announced as a first team linebacker this year by the Des Moines Register.
Head coach Jon Pedersen said being named first team is a special honor for Gilbert, especially at the running back position where he was up for discussion against several other strong athletes, some of whom had more yards.
“I think it’s really special when you consider our team has been a middle of the road team the past couple of years. For him to be recognized individually for that is pretty special,” Pedersen said. “When it was up on the board and we were looking at all the yards those guys had, I didn’t think he’d have a chance.
“I think it was one of those things they took what I said and what (Panorama head coach) Lyle Alumbaugh said. You really need to see the kid play to realize what he brings. I think being first team last year helped him. He’s just flat out the best football player I’ve seen.”
Gilbert accumulated 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing on 138 attempts this season, averaging 9.9 yards per carry. He also averaged 38.1 yards per kickoff return, and ran back both punt returns he took this year for touchdowns — 66 yards and 50 yards.
Gilbert passed 12-27 for 147 yards and four touchdowns, stepping into the quarterback position at times after senior Austin Wells went down with a leg injury.
Gilbert’s stats were all accumulated in just eight games, as he missed the final game of the season with lung and liver injuries sustained after taking a hit in the first half of the eighth game of the season. Gilbert finished playing that game despite the injuries.
“It’s funny, every week when we get to talk to coaches before the game, each one of them is just like, ‘Holy Toledo, this kid is unbelievable,’” Pedersen said. “We were glad to have him on our side.
“He can play at a higher intensity level than anybody I’ve been around. He’s very natural. The kid has grown up playing backyard football and all that. He plays with unbelievable instincts and unbelievable intensity. Football is just a natural sport to him.”
Pedersen said he believes Gilbert is the first two-time, first-team all-state player for Central Decatur.
“We’ve had quite a few seniors who have made it, but I don’t know if we’ve had a two-time, and definitely not offense on one and defense on the other,” Pedersen said. “That’s probably not real common to have it go both ways. I’ll coach a good number of years before I coach another kid like him.”