The 2022 Deseret News high school football Players of the Year were incredible playmakers for their team throughout the season, and ultimately what helped their team rise above from the rest of the competition.
Five were offensive juggernauts, while one was a defensive stalwart. Regardless of where they played, they were all instrumental in leading their team to state championships.
This year’s six Players of the Year are Skyridge’s Tausili Akana, Lehi’s Jackson Brousseau, Desert Hills’ Tyden Morris, Morgan’s Nick Despain, San Juan’s Parker Snyder and Layton Christian’s Jessaia Giatras-Moala.
6A Player of the Year
Tausili Akana, Skyridge, Sr., DE
Skyridge defensive end Tausili Akana wrecked opposing offenses all season and was one of the catalysts to his team’s dominant 6A state championships.
Skyridge coach Jon Lehman said Akana’s versatility in whatever role was needed on a given play was critical to the team’s success.
“The word that comes to mind with Tausili, and something I hear from college coaches too is versatility. That’s a great thing for a defense overall for a kid who can perform at a high level in a lot of roles is unique,” said Lehman.
He was edge rusher who could rush with speed, who could twist inside and rush with power. He could defend the run as well as any defensive end in the state and could then drop into a linebacker roll in pass protection.
He finished the season with with 70 total tackles, 22 quarterback hurries, 21 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles all while consistently facing double teams and offenses shied away from challenging him.
“Great kid, coachable and has the respect of his peers,” said Lehman. “He is a super, super hard practice player. He just brings a ton of intensity at practice. He just really wants to be great. When you add that athletic versatility with that elite mindset, he just becomes a really special player.”
He is undecided on his college commitment but has a long list of P5 offers.
5A Player of the Year
Jackson Brousseau, Lehi, Sr., QB
A football state championship last fall, a baseball state championship this past spring and then another football state championship last month. Winning is in Jackson Brousseau’s DNA.
Lehi’s senior quarterback enjoyed another outstanding football season in 2022 as he passed for 3,281 yards and 36 touchdowns in leading the Pioneers to the repeat state championship.
“I think Jackson has been a tremendous QB for our program these past four years. One of the most accurate QBs I have worked with and seen in the state of Utah. His leadership skills have been outstanding. Being a main leader to a team that wins back-to-back championships is rare air. I am going to miss him but wish him well at Colorado State. A great place for him to land,” said Lehi coach Ed Larson.
Brousseau finishes with a 25-3 record as Lehi’s varsity starting quarterback, including a 19-game winning streak to end his career.
He was particularly clutch at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In the 5A semis this year he passed for 226 yards and four touchdowns, and then in the state championship win over Timpview he passed for 293 yards and two scores, including the game-winning TD pass to Kolton Tanner in triple overtime. He scored earlier on a rushing touchdown in the first overtime.
In four total playoff games at the University of Utah he passed for 13 touchdowns and rushed for one more.
4A Player of the Year
Tyden Morris, Desert Hills, Sr., RB
Not a lot of running backs in high school can go into beast mode with their physical running style, but Desert Hills’ Tyden Morris was certainly one of those players, and the Thunder rode his success all the way to a state championship.
Morris rushed for 1,455 yards and 16 touchdowns this season while also racking up 243 receiving yards.
“I’ve loved the opportunity of being Tyden’s coach, he is a special student-athlete with a passion for football. Tyden works extremely hard to be the best that he can be. Tyden not only punishes people when carrying the ball, he is an outstanding blocker and a great receiver out of the backfield. Tyden is the ultimate teammate and very deserving of this award and recognition,” said Desert Hills coach Rick Berry.
Morris was absolutely at his best in the final three games of the season. In the regular-season finale against Pine View, he totaled 184 yards and three touchdowns. A few weeks later in the semifinals he rushed for 142 yards and two scores against Mountain Crest.
In the 4A state championship the following week, he was a workhorse back carrying the ball 30 times for 94 yards and a touchdown.
3A Player of the Year
Nick Despain, Morgan, Sr., QB
Nick Despain walked off the field his last game as a junior a runner-up. He put in the work to make sure the feeling walking off the field his senior year would be different for himself and all his teammates.
That’s precisely what he did. Despain passed for 2,861 yards and 34 touchdowns this season while also rushing for six more touchdowns as the Trojans won the 3A state championship this season with a perfect 13-0 record.
“Nick has put a lot of time into becoming the football player he is. The growth he has made the last few years has been exciting to witness and be a part of,” said Morgan coach Jared Barlow. “Nick is a learner of the game. He constantly put time into learning how to become a better quarterback, how to understand what defenses were doing, what we could do offensively to expose the opposing defenses weakness, and how he could get the team to be better.”
In Morgan’s 55-3 state championship win over Juab, he completed 17 of 23 passes for 357 yards and six touchdowns.
“One of the things I appreciated about Nick was his willingness to encourage his teammates. He would try to keep things positive and not let his teammates beat themselves up for mistakes. As a coach, I loved how he himself would not let the mistakes he would make keep him down,” said Barlow.
2A Player of the Year
Parker Snyder, San Juan, Jr., QB
Parker Snyder had big shoes to fill taking over for a state championship quarterback, and the San Juan junior more than filled them.
He had an absolutely dominant season in leading San Juan to the 2A state championship and ultimately eclipsed the stats of his predecessor Jace Palmer.
Snyder passed for 3,721 yards and 46 touchdowns and then rushed for 819 more yards and 11 scores.
“To cap all of that off, he was a great leader in leading his team to a back-to-back state championship. Parker is one of the most humble players I have ever coached and deserves every part of this award. He will be the first to credit his teammates, coaching staff and community in winning this award. Parker is an exceptional talent and we are very happy we get him for another year,” said San Juan coach Barkley Christensen.
In San Juan’s 41-21 state championship win over Beaver, Snyder accounted for 303 yards of total offense and five total touchdowns.
1A Player of the Year
Jessaia Giatras-Moala, Layton Christian, Sr., RB
Layton Christian’s Jessaia Giatras-Moala was an offensive weapon that no one in 1A football had an answer for.
Giatras-Moala ran with power, speed, vision and a shiftiness that made him impossible to stop, and it was one of the reasons the Eagles marched to their first football state championship in school history.
“Jessaia has been a special player for us on both sides of the ball, specifically on offense. He was our main ball carrier and helped carry us through a lot of victories. What makes Jessaia special as a running back is his speed, power, vision and his niftiness,” said Layton Christian coach Ray Stowers.
He finished the season with 1,638 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.
“He’s put in a lot of work to become the talented runner that he is today. I am proud to have been his coach and it’s been a joy to see all his accomplishments the last two years. Greatness awaits this kid at the next level.”