The 2021 Deseret News high school football Players of the Year were the catalysts to great things for their teams this season, and certainly the focal point for opposing coaches.
Opponents occasionally figured out how to get the best of the Players of the Year, but play after play and game after game, they were among the most dominant players in their classification regardless of the final outcome.
This year’s five Players of the Year are Corner Canyon’s Devin Brown, Lehi’s Isaac Terrell, Ridgeline’s Kaden Cox, Grantsville’s Gabe Mouritsen, San Juan’s Jensen Grover and Duchesne’s Garett Fabrizio.
Here’s a look at the 2021 Deseret News football Players of the Year as voted on by the state’s coaches.
6A Player of the Year
Devin Brown, Corner Canyon, Sr., QB
Devin Brown was in Utah for just one season, but he sure made a massive impression with a cannon for an arm that’s landed him a commitment to Ohio State.
Brown finished the season for the runner-up Chargers completing 68% of his passes for a state record 4,875 yards and 57 touchdowns. The 57 TDs are the third-most in state history.
“His throwing ability has set him apart, especially with having good receivers,” said Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar. “He was able to stretch the field and use some of that speed and be accurate deep down the field, and then developed the other part where he could read short and make some of those underneath throws as the season went on. He has a crazy, natural ability to throw the ball.”
He made a splash in his first game ever in Utah throwing for eight touchdowns in Week 1 against Farmington and then never looked back.
Kjar said Brown has a pretty low-key personality, which allowed him to gradually adjust and grow more comfortable with all his new teammates this season.
He’ll graduate early from Corner Canyon this month to be able to enroll early at Ohio State in January. That process hasn’t been easy, according to Kjar.
“When he came here he had to take a bunch of extra classes to reach our requirements here in Utah for graduation. I guess they’re not as stringent in Arizona. That dude kind of took it coming up here academically,” said Kjar, who added that Brown’s been taking a lot of in-person and online classes since arriving this summer.
5A Player of the Year
Isaac Terrell, Lehi, Jr., DE
Isaac Terrell’s defensive motor was a nightmare for teams to deal with this season, and once the entire group started clicking midway through the season Lehi became a very difficult unit for teams to score on.
Terrell’s dominance at defensive end helped Lehi end the season on a five-game winning streak and a 5A state championship. Along the way, Lehi avenged an earlier loss to Timpview with a win over the T-Birds in the 5A quarterfinals. It was Terrell’s pick-six less than three minutes into that quarterfinal win that set the tone for the Pioneers.
He finished that game with 11 tackles, tying a season high as he finished the season with 96 total tackles, 23.5 sacks, 18 hurries and 19 tackles for loss.
“Isaac epitomized our team in his work ethic, leadership and love of football. His high energy translated to the field as his motor was nonstop. I received more comments from opposing coaches about his play than I have since our 2017 team. He is as nice a young man off the field as he is tenacious on the field. I’m so glad to get to coach him one more year,” said Lehi coach Ed Larson.
He recorded at least a half a sack in every game but two this season, including a pair of sacks in the state championship victory over Springville as Lehi’s defensive line overwhelmed the Red Devils.
4A Player of the Year
Kaden Cox, Ridgeline, Sr., QB
A year after ending his season with a broken leg and thoughts of what-if, Ridgeline star quarterback Kaden Cox got the perfect ending he was dreaming off.
Cox led Ridgeline to a dream season, passing for 55 touchdowns and 3,776 yards as the team rolled to a perfect 13-0 season and a 4A state championship.
“Kaden was the ultimate competitor. He played his best in the biggest games and in the biggest moments. His knowledge of the game and understanding what defenses were trying to do to us allowed us to do a lot of different things on offense,” said Ridgeline coach Travis Cox.
Ridgeline won every game by double digits this season, finishing with a 30.8 average margin of victory.
Cox’s precision was the catalyst as he completed 72% of his passes with just two interceptions.
“His decision-making and accuracy is what really set him apart and made our offense really good. I know Kaden would be the first to say he wouldn’t have had the year he had without a great offensive line, a great running back and some really good receivers and a tight end,” added coach Cox.
His career completion percentage of 68% ranks first in state history, while he also ranks in the top 10 in three other passing categories, 657 completions (sixth), 99 touchdowns (eighth) and 8,657 yards (ninth).
3A Player of the Year
Gabe Mouritsen, Grantsville, Jr., MLB/RB
Followed in his father’s footsteps to lead Grantsville to a state championship this season, the school’s first since his dad did so 24 years ago.
Gabe Mouritsen got the job done with an unwavering desire to do whatever the team needed on any given play, whether it was offense, defense or special teams.
“Gabe was the ultimate team player, it was never about him, always about the team. Never questioned his playing time or carries, asked to be on special teams, did whatever was asked of him,” said Grantsville coach Kody Byrd. “Always quietly went about his business, let his game do the talking. Truly played inspired after losing his grandfather a few weeks into the season and brought the team to a new level.”
Mouritsen played middle linebacker and anchored a dominant defense that allowed a 3A-best 9.2 ppg. Against stacked offenses in the final two rounds of the playoffs, Mouritsen helped the Cowboys hold Juan Diego to 14 points and Morgan to 10 points.
He finished the season with 110 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and two blocked punts as well on special teams.
Offensively he was used sparingly with just 50 carries for 479 yards and five touchdowns, but his best game of the season came when it mattered most in the title game against Morgan as he rushed for 115 yards on 15 carries.
2A Player of the Year
Jensen Grover, San Juan, Sr., LB/RB
Every play, all year long, Jensen Grover was the player opposing teams didn’t really have an answer for.
Whether it was offensively where he rushed for 1,353 yards and 17 touchdowns, or defensively where he racked up 98 tackles, the San Juan senior was a relentless force for the state champs.
“Jensen was a phenomenal player for us in all aspects of the game. He got the job done on both offense and defense and was a leader both on the field and in the offseason all year long,” said San Juan coach Barkley Christensen.
Offensively, Grover carried the ball 213 times for 1,353 yards and 17 scores, while he also caught 11 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, he was the middle linebacker at the heart of the Broncos’ dominant state championship defense.
“Opposing teams would game plan to stop him from running all over them, then turn around and try to figure out how to block him. He would never come off the field and gave every ounce he had on every single play. He loves the game of football and was proud to represent the rich San Juan tradition. Jensen is very deserving of this award because of his deep love for the game and his toughness he displayed all year long,” added Christensen.
1A Player of the Year
Garett Fabrizio, Duchesne, Sr., WR/S
A lot was asked of Duchesne’s Garett Fabrizio throughout the season, and one of his most important tasks was mentoring a strong core of young talent during an impressive state championship season.
“Garett had great stats but what was most impressive was his unselfishness. His goal along with our team was to win a state championship. It was fun to watch him do his part and lead a relatively young group of skill kids and finish the season on top of 1A,” said Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan.
Fabrizio played safety and slot receiver for the Eagles this season, and made major contributions on both sides of the ball.
Offensively he carried the ball 48 times for 445 yards and nine TDs while he also hauled in 205 receiving yards for five touchdowns. He averaged 10.5 yards per game every time he touched the ball. He also scored on two kickoff return touchdowns.
Defensively, he racked up nine interceptions and was second on the team with 65 tackles.
“Garett was a guy that did a little bit of everything for our team this season,” said Cowan.