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High school football: Deseret News MVPs were catalysts to remarkable 2019 season

Deseret News football MVPs Corner Canyon’s Cole Hagen, Timpview’s Sione Moa, Sky View’s Mason Falslev, Morgan’s Jamesen Burraston and Beaver’s Ryker Albrecht.

This year’s football MVPs are, from left, Corner Canyon’s Cole Hagen (6A), Timpview’s Sione Moa (5A), Sky View’s Mason Falslev (4A), Morgan’s Jameson Burraston (3A) and Beaver’s Ryker Albrecht (2A).
Deseret News and courtesy photos

The 2019 Deseret News high school football MVPs did a wide variety of critical things for their football teams this year.

One was a 300-pound run stuffer who was always double- and triple-teamed, while another was a dominant dual-threat quarterback who approached 5,000 yards of total offense. Another was a Division I college basketball player who led the football program to new heights with his athleticism.

Another was a fullback playing quarterback, who turned out to be a pretty efficient QB in his own right, while another was the ultimate playmaker who did whatever was necessary for his team.

They each did things their own way, but they were all among the top players in the state in 2019.

This year’s five MVPs are Corner Canyon’s Cole Hagen, Timpview’s Sione Moa, Sky View’s Mason Falslev, Morgan’s Jamesen Burraston and Beaver’s Ryker Albrecht.

6A MVP
Cole Hagen, Corner Canyon, QB

Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen (7) fires a pass during the 6A championship football game between American Fork and Corner Canyon at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.
Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen (7) fires a pass during the 6A championship football game between American Fork and Corner Canyon at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019.
Steve Griffin, Deseret News

On the surface, what Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen accomplished during his junior and senior seasons seems pretty similar.

In leading the Chargers to back-to-back undefeated state championship seasons, Hagen’s numbers were pretty comparable. As a junior he passed for 281.6 yards and 3.1 TDs per game while rushing for 54.8 yards per game. This season he passed for 262.5 yards and 3.1 TDs per game while rushing for 79.1 yards per game.

Reflecting back on the two seasons, Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar said stats don’t tell the whole story because Hagen made huge strides in his senior season — even from the beginning of the season to the end.

“He got a lot better throughout the year, which is kind of weird to say because people always assume you’re at a high level. I thought his game in our pass-game concepts, he developed a lot as far as being able to read and read progression than he did the year before,” said Kjar.

A year ago, Hagen had the ultimate security blanket on the outside in receiver John Mitchell who he could sometimes throw a jump ball up to and the 6-foot-4 receiver pulled it down quite often as he hauled in 1,250 receiving yards.

Hagen didn’t have a tall weapon like that this year, which made reading defenses and going through his progressions that much more important. He finished the season with 3,676 yards and 43 touchdowns through the air while rushing for 1,108 yards and 11 TDs.

Perhaps the defining moment of the season for Corner Canyon came back on Sept. 27 when Hagen threw two touchdown passes in the final minute of the game as the Chargers rallied past Lone Peak for the 21-17 win.

It was the only close game of the season for Corner Canyon.

“He maybe hadn’t played his best football throughout that game, but when it came down to it he kind of lit fire those last two drives and kind of took care of business,” said Kjar. “That’s just how Cole is, he’s going to find ways to beat you even if he’s not playing his best, which is big as a quarterback because there are definitely games you’re not at your best and you still have to find ways to win.”

Counting his two wins when he made two injury starts as a sophomore, Hagen finished his career 28-0 as a starter.

“That’s probably the one statistic that matters most of any of the statistics that he has,” said Kjar.

He also etched his named in the state record books in two categories, seventh in career passing touchdowns (87) and ninth in career touchdowns responsible for (108).

5A MVP
Sione Moa, Timpview, RB/S

Timpview’s Sione Moa runs with the ball during the 5A football semifinal game against Lehi at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Timpview won 35-7.
Timpview’s Sione Moa runs with the ball during the 5A football semifinal game against Lehi at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. Timpview won 35-7.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Every coach that platoons his football team seems to have one of those players he just has to play both ways. It may not be full time, but that player’s versatility is too important to be left on the sideline in crunch time.

For 5A runner-up Timpview, that player was senior Sione Moa.

Timpview coach Andy Stokes said early in the season he utilized Moa primarily one way, typically on the side of the ball he felt the T-Birds needed him most on a given night. By the end of the season though he rarely left the field, and Moa loved it.

“The special thing about Sione he is just ready to do whatever he needs to do, and he wants to do it. You don’t have to convince him to do anything. If I would’ve told him you have to play center this week, he would’ve been excited to do it. He just loves football and is excited to be on a team,” said Stokes.

Moa was a key cog in Timpview’s power rushing game racking up 1,390 yards and 14 TDs, and defensively he recorded 31 tackles and five interceptions from his safety position.

Stokes said that Moa’s passion and intensity became increasingly more infectious for the whole team, and was a big reason Timpview made a strong push in the playoffs into the title game.

Moa’s increased production played a big role too.

“The funny thing was, it seemed like the more we played him the healthier he got,” said Stokes.

At the next level, Moa is being pursued on both sides of the ball as the 16-year-old senior will have plenty of options after he returns from his LDS mission. Because of his age, he might even be able to play a year of college football before his mission.

4A MVP
Mason Falslev, Sky View, WR

Sky View’s Mason Falslev runs for a touchdown as they and Logan play a high school football game in Smithfield on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Sky View won 40-22.
Sky View’s Mason Falslev runs for a touchdown as they and Logan play a high school football game in Smithfield on Friday, Sept. 28, 2018. Sky View won 40-22.
Deseret News

After watching how well Sky View performed without its starting quarterback in the team’s first two region games this season, coach Chris Howell made a big decision.

When Mason Falslev returned from injury in Week 7, Howell didn’t give him his starting QB spot back. Instead he move the dynamic athletic to wide receiver — where he was an all-stater as a sophomore — and the Bobcats flourished on both sides of the ball the rest of the season.

“In my mind offensively that was a huge turning point in our season when we started moving him around,” said Howell, who said he also felt more confident to play Falslev at safety knowing he wasn’t putting his QB in harm’s way.

“That made us a better defensive team as well,” said Howell.

Falslev told Howell he’d do whatever the team needed to be successful, and the position switch was the catalyst that helped Sky View capture its first football state championship in school history.

“His ability to make plays at critical times is crazy, almost. I don’t know that I’ve ever been around a kid quite like him that at critical times finds a way to make plays,” said Howell.

Falslev finished the season with 743 passing yards, 600 receiver yards, 657 rushing yards, 27 total touchdowns, 11 tackles and three interceptions.

Howell said the leadership demonstrated by Falslev, who’s signed to the University of Utah to play basketball, was just as important to what he did on the field.

“His leadership played a huge role, just the way he treats the kids that he grew up with is one thing, but the way he treated our younger kids as well. Just a great example for the culture and tone we want in the program,” said Howell.

3A MVP
Jamesen Burraston, Morgan, DT

Morgan defensive lineman Jamesen Burraston is the Deseret News 3A MVP.
Courtesy Jeff Kelsey

On the first play in Jamesen Burraston’s first game in a month — in the state championship game no less — the senior defensive tackle made a fantastic play that epitomized just how valuable he was to the Trojans.

Despite a double-team that always seemed to be there, Burraston broke through the line of scrimmage and sacked Juab’s quarterback. On Juab’s next series, Burraston forced a fumble to halt what was shaping up to be a promising drive.

Morgan’s defense had been great in the three playoff wins prior to Burraston’s return, but in the championship with their key cog back in the middle of the defense, the Trojans blanked Juab for the school’s first football state title in 22 years.

“When we didn’t have him for a few weeks, our middle backers and outside backers were getting blocked a little more than they were used to cause he always demanded double- and triple-teams,” said Morgan coach Kovi Christianson. “It was nice to get him back.”

Burraston finished the season with 31 tackles, five sacks, 10 tackles for loss and two fumble recoveries, but Christianson said it was all the stats he wasn’t getting that made Morgan so good throughout the season.

“Whenever he’s out there, he frees everybody else up because he commands two or three people to worry about him all the time. He has a motor that goes and goes and makes the whole team more confident and trusting,” said Christianson. “He’s always been a huge team guy. Kids love him, coaches love him cause he’ll do whatever it takes to make the team a state championship team.”

Burraston was a three-year starter for Morgan, and even though his statistical contributions went down this year his dominance on the defensive line was as high as ever.

2A MVP
Ryker Albrecht, Beaver, QB

Beaver’s Ryker Albrecht is the Deseret News 2A MVP.
Courtesy Cory Norman

Dominant Beaver had one game all season decided by less than 32 points, and a huge reason for all that success was the playmaking and leadership ability of senior quarterback Ryker Albrecht.

“We had a really balanced, really good team with a lot of good players. At quarterback he was the center piece of our offense,” said

In many ways Albrecht was a fullback playing quarterback as he rushed for 1,116 yards and 23 touchdowns on 169 carries. Conversely though, he wasn’t a liability at all when he dropped back to pass, competing 62 of 112 passes for 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns out of Beaver’s run-first offense.

“We average about eight or nine passes a game and he was still able to throw for over 1,000 yards. He was very efficient,” said Marshall.

With Beaver’s depth, Albrecht was always fresh when he stepped on the field as he didn’t play defense this season. A year ago he played linebacker and recorded 47 tackles, and Marshall said he could’ve easily been one of the team’s best defensive players as well this year, but it wasn’t necessary.

One of his best games of the season came in the 2A state championship rout of Milford as he carried the ball 18 times for 123 yards and three touchdowns.

Marshall said Albrecht’s overall growth as a player was obvious offensively as he rushed for 359 more yards and 12 more touchdowns in 20 less carries.