The name of the game in soccer is to find the back of the net, and this year’s Deseret News boys soccer Players of the Year were among the best in the state at making sure their teams were among the most dangerous attacking teams in the state.
They did more than their own fair share of finding the back of the net too.
Here’s a look at the 2022 Deseret News boys soccer Players of the Year.
6A Player of the Year
Samir Cuevas, Corner Canyon, MF, Jr.
Anyone who watched Corner Canyon play this season, it was pretty clear who the best player on the field was — junior Samir Cuevas. He can dominate a game like few players and it showed on the scoresheet as he recorded 12 goals and eight assists and led Corner Canyon to the Region 4 title.
Like many top seeds in 6A, Corner Canyon’s playoff run was a short one as it lost in penalties in the second round to Cinderella Herriman.
Cuevas assisted on Corner Canyon’s only goal in that playoff loss.
“Samir Cuevas is a brilliant player and natural goal scorer. He is every defender and goal keepers’ nightmare. He will do whatever it takes to put the ball in the net,” said Corner Canyon coach Drew Van Wagenen. “His effort is relentless and his technical ability to dribble through defenders, break down defenses and finish difficult goal-scoring opportunities is astounding. He is always the most dangerous player on the field.”
Cuevas scored a goal or recorded an assist in 11 of 17 games for the Chargers, including a run late in the season in which he scored two goals in three straight games which helped clinch the region title.
5A Player of the Year
Carter Bell, Alta, MF, Sr.
Alta’s 18 victories this season culminated with the ninth state championship in school history, and at the center of it all was midfield engine Carter Bell.
Whether he was finishing off his own chances or creating for his teammates, Bell did whatever was necessary during a fantastic season as he finished with 13 goals and 12 assists.
“Carter is a true example of what a great teammate is and why Alta had the success we did this season. He stepped up his individual game, working on and off the field to improve his skill and play with the end goal being the success of the team,” said Alta coach Mackenzie Hyer. “Carter led by example and with a passion for the game of soccer but more importantly the love of his Alta Hawk brothers.”
Bell was at his best in Alta’s four-game playoff run. He recorded a goal in the Alta’s second-round win over Bonneville and then added two goals and the overtime game-winning assist in quarterfinal win over rival Brighton.
In the semis he notched the assist on Alta’s second half equalizer which forced overtime. In the final chances were tough to come by, but he buried his penalty kick as the Hawks prevailed in the shootout.
4A Player of the Year
Elijah Smith, Crimson Cliffs, F, Sr.
During Crimson Cliffs’ run to a region and state championship this season, at the center of the action was senior Elijah Smith. He played all over the field as situations dictated and delivered whenever and wherever he was called up.
Smith was a great “1v1” player for the Mustangs, and finished tied with a team-high nine goals to go along with his three assists.
“Eli seemed to have endless energy. He would chase down every ball and lead our press to win the ball back. He was class at all times. Respectful when winning and inspiring his teammates when we were struggling,” said Crimson Cliffs coach Isaac Klingonsmith.
Smith usually started at center forward for Crimson Cliffs, but Klingonsmith never hesitated dropping his best attacker into a defensive midfield role if his team was protecting a lead late in the game. It was a big reason why Crimson Cliffs recorded 13 shutouts.
Smith even played center back in one game when the situation called for it.
That versatility and unselfishness were unmatched, and Crimson Cliffs benefited with a trophy haul.
3A Player of the Year
Enzo Jaques, Layton Christian, F, Sr.
On the biggest stage of the season, the 3A state championship, Layton Christian senior Enzo Jaques came up huge with a hat trick to lead the Eagles to the state championship.
In many ways, it was just another day at the office for the talented striker. Jacques scored in 17 of 20 games this season for Layton Christian, including all four playoff games, as he presented defensive problems for the opposition every game.
The result was a scintillating season in which he recorded 25 goals and 13 assists.
“Enzo has a very strong personality. He truly believes in his potential, his skill and that sets him apart from others. When you work with him daily and learn how much he cares for the people around him and for the team, you know he has a great heart,” said Layton Christian coach Lucas Almeida. “All these ingredients make him be the player he is. I am proud of how much he developed this season, and both him and I know that is just the beginning for him.”
While Jaques’ hat trick led Layton Christian to the comfortable win in the final, it was his 76th-minute equalizer in the semifinals that helped send the game into overtime, with the Eagles eventually prevailing in a shootout.
2A Player of the Year
Daniel Fontes, St. Joseph, F, Fr.
Considering how well he showcased himself as a freshman, the sky’s the limit for St. Joseph’s Daniel Fontes.
He scored 30 goals to lead the entire state this season and helped lead the Jayhawks to a runner-up finish in 2A. The combination of speed and technical ability made Fontes a very difficult player for opposing teams to deal with.
“He is a very fast player. He is able to break away from defenders on a counterattack or slip behind them for a through ball, and in many instances, he gets to the ball first. Speed can hurt the best defenders and Daniel has a lot of it,” said St. Joseph coach Paulo Franco.
Along with great speed, Fontes has a great first touch which adds to his creative ability.
“Daniel doesn’t just dribble. He dribbles with an enormous amount of flair. Flicks, back-heels, step-overs and so on are just what you expect to see when he plays. Daniel’s dribbling can be a delight to watch for everyone except the opposing defenders,” said Franco. “His dribbling allows him to wiggle out of tight situations and create space for himself to shoot or pass. Daniel has the ability to finish well with both feet and that makes him a very dangerous opponent.”
Fontes scored in 12 of 18 games this season for the Jayhawks, including eight multigoal games.