The quintessential quiet leader. Like having a coach on the field. A workhorse.
Among the variety of qualities that make up a team’s most valuable player, one thing is certain: The team would not have been the same without them.
The four 2014 state championship boys soccer teams know how true that is. For that reason, their leaders, captains, driving forces behind their successes have also earned the honor of being recognized as the best in their class.
For the 2014 boys soccer season, the Deseret News MVPs are Hunter McFall of Riverton, Teagan Ricks of Skyline, Caesar Perez of Dixie and Tristan Broadbent of Waterford.
Hunter McFall, Riverton
Multiple times during the season, Riverton coach Paul Moizer and his staff noticed McFall pulling teammates aside to talk. As it turns out, the senior was offering pointers, bridging the gap between athlete and coach.
“It's almost like having a coach on field,” Moizer said. “He controls the defense, talking people into position.”
Like most leaders, McFall recognized what needed to be done and took it upon himself to see that the necessary adjustments were made.
“He would tell them, 'You need to be here when we're doing this,'" Moizer said. “Other players respect him so much, they welcome it. He has been a fantastic leader.”
Throughout his career with the Silverwolves, McFall has always been a leader within his age group. As he moved up the ranks, however, he became more of a force, using his postseason experience to guide the team.
“Last year, he took some big steps and this year he took it to another level,” Moizer said of the player who was with the team for two quarterfinal losses and a first-round exit a year ago before the team earned its first state title in Riverton boys soccer history this season.
“It was his mission that the other team wasn't going to score,” Moizer said. “He directed the defense in that and worked his guts out to make it happen.”
As a team, the Silverwolves allowed just 11 goals throughout the entire 20-match season. They only allowed three in their final 12 games, two of which were in one contest, and led the state with 12 shutouts.
“The shutouts were a whole team effort, but he was probably the focal point,” Moizer said of the Riverton defense, which did not allow a single goal during the state tournament. “He is the one who made defense the priority. He made everyone else buy into the fact that, 'They're just not going to score, guys.'"
Teagan Ricks, Skyline
From the very beginning of the season, Ricks’ greatest goal was to play at Rio Tinto Stadium. All year long, he hoped and worked and took advantage of every single opening presented to him, vying for the opportunity to reach the state finals.
By the end of May, he had buoyed the team through wind and rain games, two shocking losses at the end of Region 7 play, and through a tough tournament run to reach his target.
And then he pushed the Eagles over the edge there, too, leading them to the first boys soccer state title in Skyline history.
“Teagan did an outstanding job as captain this year,” said Skyline coach Shawn Kennedy. “He was a strong leader and example for the team.”
Ricks saw plenty of time moving around the field, serving primarily as an outside back or defensive midfielder but also stepping in when the Eagles’ center back was sidelined with an injury.
“Teagan was about the team and not the individual,” Kennedy said, noting that Ricks contributed greatly to the Eagles’ 10 shutouts. “He said it like it was and didn’t tolerate any nonsense on the field”
On top of his efforts on the defensive end of the field, Ricks took the team’s long set pieces and scored all three of his goals during crucial moments. He was 3 for 3 with penalty kicks.
Ricks grew with the team, which went from missing the playoffs in both 2011 and 2012 to a first-round loss last season before winning the 2014 title.
“He is a responsible and respectful player who loves to play soccer,” Kennedy said. “He is admired by the team and coaching staff.”
Caesar Perez, Dixie
Midway through the Flyers’ first meeting with Snow Canyon in the middle of the season, Dixie was down a goal on the scoreboard and down a player on the field.
“Caesar had the game of a lifetime,” Dixie coach Burt Myers said of how the player sparked the Flyers in the second half of that game. “He had a goal and a pass that set up the winning goal in overtime. We played a man down and came back, and that’s just who he was for us.”
More than his scoring ability, though, it was Perez’s ability to see three steps ahead and move the ball to his teammates.
“He just understands the game. He has a sixth sense for the game,” Myers said. “He always puts himself in the right place at the right time. He can thread a ball through two defenders and hit a player on a run. He has set us up a number of times with those long, smooth passes.”
Perez totaled 10 goals and 10 assists during his senior season as the Flyers won their second title in three seasons.
“He is a quiet leader, but he goes out and performs hard,” Myers said of Perez’s contribution to Dixie’s 2014 championship run. “It's like having a coach on the field. He talks to kids on the field, tells them, 'Look for this, this is available, try that.'”
Much of what allowed Perez to be such a strong team leader for the Flyers was his happy personality, calm demeanor and team-first attitude.
“He's a kid that doesn't need his name in lights. He wants his team to succeed,” Myers said. “He doesn't like to lose and takes awhile to get over it. I think his teammates pick up on that, they learn that from him.”
The coach then added, “He is one of those kids you don't replace very easily.”
Tristan Broadbent, Waterford
With just two losses on the season, one of which was against a 3A school, there is no doubt Waterford is a good team. Without Broadbent on the field, however, head coach George Shirley said it would have been a much greater challenge to win the Ravens’ first title since 2011.
“Without Tristan in the middle, we are a completely different team, and not in a positive way,” Shirley said. “He anchors our entire team working on both sides of the ball.”
He is the quintessential quiet leader. Reserved, intelligent and driven, he is always the first to complete drills in practice. Shirley said Broadbent is not one to exert his leadership by yelling, but his level of play is infectious.
“He has a higher work rate than any high-schooler I've been around,” Shirley said. “He wins balls out of the air and then works back to collect the ball to make it a productive offensive effort as well.”
Broadbent scored six goals over the course of the season and helped the Ravens earn the title after experiencing a first round and a quarterfinal exit from the 2A state tournament over the last two years.
Looking ahead, the best part for Shirley is the team leader is only a junior.
“I get him one more year, and I am just excited to be around him one more year,” the coach said. “I expect great things from him, not just next year but lifelong. He is an incredibly talented and intellectual individual and I am very proud of him.”
Sarah Thomas earned a degree in Mathematics from the University of Utah and is currently pursuing an MBA at Westminster College. She has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008.