SANDY — Derek Boggs has always felt a connection to the Alta High soccer program.
Growing up near the high school, there were always older neighbors who played for Alta, and Boggs tried to go watch the big kids play whenever possible.
By the time his freshman year rolled around, Boggs was one of the big kids and he had no problem cracking the Hawks' varsity starting lineup. Four years later, Boggs is leaving Alta as one of the best players in school history, and he's also leaving the program in great shape.
The 6-foot, 180-pound midfielder scored 13 goals and added numerous assists to lead Alta to its first state championship since 2006.
"We played through him. He was kind of the catalyst and engine we played through," said Alta coach Lee Mitchell.
For his many accomplishments, Boggs was the obvious choice for the 2011 Deseret News Mr. Soccer award, becoming the fourth recipient. The previous three awards went to northern Utah players: Viewmont's Colton Cook (2008), Davis' Daniel Hernandez (2009) and Davis' Casey Black (2010).
Whether he was playing attacking midfield when the Hawks needed a goal, or sitting in at defensive mid when they were protecting a lead, Boggs was a beast for his opponents.
For Boggs, leading Alta to the state title was a dream nearly a decade in the making, and another incredible addition to his sparkling resume.
In addition to finishing as a four-year starter at Alta — one of just a handful in school history — Boggs has been a captain of Utah's ODP team for the last five years, and was also captain of the region team a couple of times.
"He grew early so he was fairly mature for a freshman. He was always able to handle himself physically and he's smart enough to understand the game. He's done a good job for us all four years," said Mitchell.
Two years ago, he was an integral part of the Real Salt Lake Under-17 team that finished third at the SUM Cup in Colorado.
Regardless of the situation, Boggs has always been a player who could keep his emotions in check, never getting too high or low. His teammates fed off the calm demeanor.
That was never more evident than in the 5A championship at Rio Tinto Stadium last month. He notched a goal and an assist in regulation, and even though Brighton equalized both times, Boggs made sure his teammates didn't panic heading into overtime, with Alta eventually prevailing 3-2.
"He's confident in what he's doing all the time," said Mitchell.
The next step in Boggs' sparkling career is the University of Portland, one of the elite men's soccer programs in the country.
Through the years, the Portland program has produced standout American soccer players like Steve Cherundolo, Heath Pearce and Conor Casey. Second-year RSL midfielder Collen Warner also attended Portland.
Boggs knows it's a big jump from high school to college, but he's excited for the challenge.
"Everybody knows the game very well at the next level. Everyone has athletic ability to outrun you, be faster than you, be in better shape, so just going into that level, I have to prepare myself getting in the best shape of my life," said Boggs, who committed to Portland midway through his junior season.
Mitchell doesn't doubt that Boggs will be successful, but said there's plenty of room for improvement.
"He needs to work on his control a little bit better at times, and his passing at times he could be better at," said Mitchell.
Boggs will likely be a defensive midfielder in college, and he's got the physical tools and hunger to enjoy four more years of success.