High school football: Five MVPs led by example

Published: Thursday, Dec. 2 2010 3:00 p.m. MST

Stetler Shumway, San Juan

Tom Smart, Deseret News

When the plays needed to be made this year, the 2010 Deseret News football MVPs were usually the ones making them.

Their leadership qualities off the field were just as important, and the combination of the two was the perfect recipe for a championship season.

Bingham's Stefan Cantwell, Highland's Nate Fakahafua, Juan Diego's Taylor Cassita, San Juan's Stetler Shumway and Duchesne's Grant Marett were the driving forces behind their respective teams' championship seasons, and the obvious MVP choices for the Deseret News.

5A MVP: Stefan Cantwell, Bingham

Bingham's nationally-ranked football team includes 13 players who've received Division I college football offers. Bingham quarterback Stefan Cantwell isn't one of them.

Yet despite being surrounded by stars, Cantwell quickly emerged as the unquestioned leader of a team bound for greatness.

"He was no doubt the leader on the team, the one the kids would follow and listen to," said Bingham coach Dave Peck, who's convinced Cantwell will eventually get scholarship offers. "I just know when he's got the ball in his hands everyone on the team knows he's not going to let us lose. He means more to our team than I think a lot of people realize."

He was the ultimate dual-threat quarterback for the 5A state champions. Cantwell completed more than 60 percent of his passes for 2,160 yards and 30 touchdowns. He also rushed for 506 yards and eight scores.

Cantwell developed a reputation during his junior season as a Tim Tebow-like quarterback who couldn't really throw. That was a silly notion, considering his exploits on the mound in baseball, something the rest of the state found out pretty quickly during his senior season.

Throughout the year several teams tried to stack the box to stuff Bingham's powerful running game, but Cantwell quickly punished them through the air.

"Stefan all of the sudden could light you up," said Peck.

On the biggest stage at Rice-Eccles Stadium during Bingham's semifinal and championship games, Cantwell threw for a combined 515 yards and seven touchdowns in convincing victories over Jordan and Fremont.

"He's really going to be missed," Peck said. "I sure appreciate what he brought to the team."

4A MVP: Nate Fakahafua, Highland

If there's such thing as a perfect football player, this Highland senior might be the guy.

As if being hard-working, intelligent and unselfish weren't enough, Fakahafua is also one of the best athletes in the state. His dominance helped the Rams win their first state title since 1986.

"Right now he's pointed in the right direction and you know that's destined for great things," said Highland coach Brody Benson.

The bigger the stage the better he performed, and his fourth-down touchdown catch in overtime will go down as one of the best plays in state championship game history.

Everybody knew the ball was going to Fakahafua on fourth-and-10, but Mountain Crest simply couldn't stop it.

"He willed us to win. He wasn't going to be denied," said Benson.

That 25-yard touchdown grab was the exclamation point on a 200-yard receiving day for Fakahafua, who finished the season with 1,351 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

He was just as dominant on the defensive side of the ball, racking up 62 tackles and 17.5 sacks.

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