If the Utah Freezz were smart, they might look to build their new professional soccer franchise around the Deseret News' trio of high school MVPs.
Not only are Brighton's Andy Simmons, Bountiful's Stevon Bailey and Ben Lomond's Shad Laughter great soccer players, they're also proven winners.This past season, the three talented soccer standouts played big roles in their teams' classification championships, and now they highlight this year's Deseret News All-State teams. The All-State squads were based on coaches' votes.
Here's a look at the MVPs:
5A MVP -- ANDY SIMMONS, Brighton: This senior forward had the attention of everybody on, off or even nearby the soccer field when he played.
"You couldn't ignore him," said Brighton coach Tom Cushing.
Still, Simmons made teams pay dearly regardless of how much attention they gave him. He boosted the impressive Bengals to their third state title by leading the team in scoring with 13 goals and in assists with 10. He scored one goal and dished out an assist in Brighton's title-clinching win over Jordan.
"Other teams had to plan their defense on stopping him. He was our main guy," Cushing said. "When teams focused on him, it opened things up for other people. Nobody could stop him, either."
The thing that made Simmons such a threat was his versatility. The three-year starter blended a rare combination of speed, soccer skill, strength and scoring ability. He was deft at shooting with both feet as well.
Cushing found it easy to gush about Simmons as an all-around person, too. He graduated with an A- average and "was just a real nice, hard-working, fairly easy-going guy.
"He didn't talk a whole lot," Cushing continued, "he just kind of led with his play."
4A MVP -- STEVON BAILEY, Bountiful: Not only is Bailey the most valuable player, at times he was probably the most overlooked player in the state as well. Not anymore.
"He's one of those players who's a blue-coller worker," said Bountiful coach Mike Parker. "He doesn't get notoriety, and he never has. Steve is one of those people you just don't notice."
Well, his opponents were forced to take notice.
Bailey, a senior forward, quietly scored a team-high 10 goals while racking up eight assists for the 4A champs. His stamina and knack for hustling are off the chart.
Parker described Bailey as being the catalyst in Bountiful's title win. After Bonneville opened the game with a big offensive surge, he dutifully accepted a position change in order to shore the defense from the midfield. Bailey also scored Bountiful's first goal of the championship match.
"He works hard and is constantly moving," Parker said. "He's everywhere and doesn't give up."
Bailey's work ethic -- on and off the field -- has impressed Parker the most.
"Stevon has had to work hard for everything he's gotten," he said. "It's that hard work that makes him stand out to me. He has been a great asset for us."
3A MVP -- SHAD LAUGHTER, Ben Lomond: Scots coach Donnie Greenfield is going to have a hard time next year, if for no other reason than his responsibilities will increase with Laughter's departure.
Bubba -- as friends and family have called Laughter since he was a kid -- was Ben Lomond's best defender and the team's gritty on-the-field coach during this championship season.
"He had all the pressure and he handled it real well," Greenfield said. "He's just a leader."
Whether it was making sure his buddies were in bed at curfew while at the 3A tournament in St. George or inspiring his other extremely young teammates, Laughter was as reliable as could be.
"He's a hard-nosed kid. The kids respect him," Greenfield said.
It's unlikely the Scots would've even come close to taking the 3A title without the hard-working example of Laughter, a three-sport standout who won Ben Lomond's Gold Watch award for being the best all-around athlete.
"He's one of the most aggressive kids," Greenfield added. "The kids fed off his hard work and his being aggressive to the ball. He was just really focused."
Laughter also managed to score four goals and dish out three assists. But his true value was how he threw a wrench in opponents' offenses, especially in the championship game against Ogden.
"He won many games on defense for me, he really did," Greenfield said.