One was an offensive lineman, two were quarterbacks and two were outstanding two-way starters. No matter which side of the ball they contributed, the 2012 Deseret News football MVPs did so in dominant fashion.
As great as they were on the field, each of the MVP’s coaches complimented them on their leadership qualities and simply being respectful and exemplary teammates.
Jordan’s B.J. Cavender, Timpview’s Jake Lloyd, Dixie’s Blake Barney, Manti’s Austin Jackson and Duchesne’s Kaden Moon each led their teams to a state championship and are deserving recipients of the Deseret News MVP awards.
B.J. Cavender, Jordan
Midway through the second half of Jordan’s 34-33 loss at Rio Tinto Stadium to nationally ranked St. John Bosco, Calif., starting center B.J. Cavender suffered a severely sprained ankle.
With Cavender on the sideline the final three weeks of the regular season, No. 1 Jordan suddenly seemed vulnerable. It narrowly squeaked out a 35-33 win over Cottonwood, and trailed Brighton 14-7 at the half before rallying for a 42-14 win.
The four-year starter returned in time for the playoffs though, and the rest is history.
With Cavender calling the shots for the offensive line, the ‘Diggers outscored their four playoff opponents 198-36. Incredibly, 56 of those points came in the first half against Pleasant Grove, while another 51 came in the first half of the championship game against Syracuse.
“The kids did a good job battling without him and we were still able to put wins together, but there was a big difference, especially leadership wise,” said Jordan coach Eric Kjar. “He was like a calming effect. We got him back in the playoffs and we were pretty much able to roll through those and he was probably one of the main reasons why.”
Jordan’s offensive line plowed the way for the ‘Diggers to rush for 3,944 yards and 58 touchdowns.
It’s only fitting Cavender caps his career with an MVP nod. He was the starting center for 2009 all-state QB Alex Hart, 2010 all-state QB McCoy Hill, 2011 all-state QB Austin Kafentzis — 2012 Mr. Football.
During those four years, Jordan racked up 24,254 yards of total offense.
“I don’t want to say he’s been the most important cog, but I don’t think it happens without what he’s done,” Kjar said. “And what he’s meant to the program and the leadership and stability he’s given us, just with workouts and what he does, and it gets contagious.”
At just 6-feet, Cavender doesn’t have any scholarship offers at this point. Kjar, however, believes Cavender is capable of succeeding at the next level, he just needs a college coach to take a chance on him.
Jake Lloyd, Timpview
It was a tumultuous 2012 for Timpview’s football program, but Jake Lloyd’s brilliant performance in the 4A state championship game against Mountain Crest helped ease much of the frustration.
After getting off to a slow start in the title game, Lloyd was phenomenal in the fourth quarter and overtime, including his unforgettable fourth-down TD pass in overtime with a defender wrapped around his ankles.
His 24-yard pass on third-and-16 in double overtime was equally as impressive and important.
Lloyd finished with 328 passing yards and three TDs in the title game, in addition to 80 yards rushing and another score as Timpview claimed its first title since 2009.
“Going into the playoffs he was peeking as well as the rest of the team,” said Timpview coach Cary Whittingham. “He got better and better continually as the year went on.”
Lloyd threw at least three touchdowns in every game but one, eventually tying the state record of 53 touchdown passes set by Logan’s Riley Nelson in 2005. He finished with 3,894 yards and a 63 percent completion percentage.
Like all of his teammates, Lloyd excelled in the playoffs by not dwelling on the late-season drama regarding an ineligible player that forced the T-Birds to forfeit several games.
“He kept it all in perspective just like the rest of the team did, and didn’t let it effect his performance,” said Whittingham, who added that everyone felt a huge sense of accomplishment after winning the title, “'Cause it was a tough road to get there.”
Indeed it was as Timpview beat Logan, Woods Cross, East and Mountain Crest en route to the title. In those four games alone Lloyd passed for 1,171 yards with 15 TDs and one interception.
As of now, Lloyd has no scholarship offers from any schools. Whittingham believes schools are scared off by his QB’s arm strength, but he believes Lloyd has the intangibles and athleticism to make up for it with hard work.
“He’s the kind of kid you get him into the weight room and develop that and that can improve. That might be a non-issue in the future,” Whittingham said.
Blake Barney, Dixie
When the 3A state tournament got underway, nobody was really talking about Dixie as a state title contender. Four weeks later, nobody could stop talking about Dixie quarterback Blake Barney.
On the biggest stage of his career at Rice-Eccles Stadium, he delivered two unbelievable performances to lead Dixie to its first title since 1998.
In a snowy semifinal against a Juan Diego team that beat Dixie in the playoffs 41-0 a year earlier, Barney showed tremendous versatility knowing his team wouldn’t be able to pass. He still came up huge in leading Dixie to the 14-13 victory by carrying the ball 23 times for 107 yards and both touchdowns.
The weather was much better in the championship against Spanish Fork a week later, and Barney played like a man on a mission. He passed for 299 yards, rushed for 173 more and racked up six total touchdowns — tying the state championship game record.
His performance was the culmination of a great three-year career as Dixie’s starting QB.
“Sometimes you can start as a sophomore and not get any better, but I thought he got better every year and every time he played the game. He kind of matured and developed into a good quarterback,” said Dixie coach Blaine Monkres.
After racking up 2,805 passing yards and 1,321 rushing yards this season, Barney graduates with 9,157 yards of total offense and 89 touchdowns to his credit.
Most importantly, though, he led Dixie to a state title nobody thought possible.
“He gives credit back to his offensive line and his receivers, and realizes without team success he’s not going to have success as an individual,” Monkres said.
Barney already has an offer from Dixie State and is getting mild interest from Weber State and Southern Utah.
Austin Jackson, Manti
Others players in 2A might’ve had better statistical seasons than Austin Jackson, but it’s tough to find anyone that was more valuable.
Not only did Jackson lead the two-time state champion Templars in rushing yards and TDs this season, but he was also the team’s leading tackler from his outside linebacker position. He also punted and ran the occasional play out of the wildcat formation.
Jackson could’ve easily rushed for more than 526 yards and 10 TDs, but coach Cole Meacham loves to spread the ball around to multiple running backs. Not once did Jackson complain.
“He could’ve seen a lot more carries offensively, but there was never a bit of (selfishness) on his part,” Meacham said.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jackson racked up a team-high of 69 tackles. Versatility was his greatest asset defensively though. Not only was he very good against the run, but he was athletic enough to drop back into coverage and serve as a fourth defensive back when necessary.
A big reason why was because he was a student of the game.
“He loved to watch film. He put in probably as much time as anybody else on the team watching film, so he really got to understand the things we were telling him as coaches,” Meacham said. “When he would see a formation or see a motion out of a certain formation, he knew what was coming and where he needed to get.”
Kaden Moon, Duchesne
Few high school athletes will ever experience winning quite like Kaden Moon. In fact, Duchesne didn’t lose a single game the past two years with Moon as a full-time varsity starter.
“He pretty much exemplified what our team is about — just hard-nosed and tough. He wasn’t the most naturally athletic kid, but he just worked hard. He’s probably one of the most competitive kids you’ll find,” said Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan.
Over the past two years, Duchesne went a staggering 24-0 and didn’t beat a fellow 1A team by less than two touchdowns.
At the heart of it all was Moon, particularly on defense as he finished with a team-high 117 tackles this season from his linebacker position.
“Defensively he’s probably one of the better linebackers we’ve had come through here in the last 10 years, and that says a lot 'cause we’ve had some good players come through,” said Cowan. “Instinctively, he could just get to the ball so much better than the guys around him, that was kind of his specialty.”
During his junior season Moon racked up 71 tackles.
Those instincts were very beneficial offensively, too. A year after rushing for 255 yards on limited carries because of Duchesne’s depth, Moon dominated during his senior season with 1,021 yards and nine touchdowns.