Alta running back Chad Knowles, Logan quarterback Todd Wilson, Millard halfback Tilden Swallow, and South Summit quarterback Mark Rydalch have probably never met, let alone played on the same team.
However, the four prep football standouts share a few things in common. For starters, they helped pace their teams to 1988 state championships. They also posted some pretty impressive personal performances during the fall. And now, the foursome have been honored as the 1988 Deseret News' Most Valuable Players.For the season, Knowles gained 1,319 yards on 182 carries, scoring 16 touchdowns on the ground and another on one of his 11 pass receptions. But it was his play in the state playoffs where Knowles became the workhorse - and score-horse - for the Hawks. In four tournament games he tallied 11 TDs, and he rushed for 142 yards in the championship game against Orem and a whopping 275 yards against Woods Cross in the quarterfinals.
Alta Coach Doug Berry said that Rice Stadium's artificial turf only enhanced Knowles' speed and balance as a running back. Knowles himself was aware of such advantages going into the playoffs, which resulted in his running with increased confidence, Berry added.
Wilson finished the fall of '88 with 2,373 yards passing, 24 passing touchdowns and a rushing score - not bad for a first-year varsity starter at quarterback. The senior three-sport standout had dropped out of American Legion baseball last spring to learn Logan's passing system in Cache Valley's passing league competition.
In the 3A finals against Pleasant Grove, Wilson completed 16 of 21 attemps - with no interceptions - for 420 yards. And while Coach Perry Christensen expresses pleasure that six Grizzlies scored in that game (not including a safety credited to the defense), Wilson played a big part in five of those TDs by throwing four scoring passes and rushing for another score.
Swallow has been described as Millard's backbone - three years at running back and two years at middle linebacker. This year alone, he averaged six yards a carry, not to mention an almost-100-yard performance in the 2A championship game, where he scored all three Eagle TDs.
"When we needed a couple of extra yards, we went to Tilden - he won't quit," said Millard Coach Dennis Alldredge. "He's not the fastest or the quickest, but he's the most dependable and the hardest hitting of our backs."
You might remember Rydalch as a previous Deseret News MVP - the 1A basketball MVP of the '87-88 season who has since signed a letter-of-intent to play the winter sport at the University of Utah. But he's earned the football honor as well, having thrown for 1,466 yards and 13 touchdowns while doubling as the Wildcats' second-best rusher this fall. As a defensive back, he picked off a half-dozen interceptions as well.
"He just has a real cool head and makes split-second decisions," said South Summit Coach Tom Crittenden, recalling a handful of instances in the 1A title game against Kanab where Rydalch was seemingly trapped before completing key passes. "That's pretty disheartening to the defense - and that's something he was doing all the time."
Granted, the 1988 MVP honorees were in good company throughout the season - they were backed by championship-caliber teammates.
The 1988 Deseret News All-State selections are based almost exclusively on balloting done by the head coaches of Utah's 80-plus prep football teams. Coaches were asked to individually compile a first- and second-team all-state squad, with the balloting tabulated by the Deseret News.
Nearly 700 different prep players received votes from the state's coaches, with the Deseret News all-state team consisting of an MVP selection and 27 first- and second-team positions. Other top vote-getters received honorable-mention distinction.
The 1988 Deseret News MVPs and the first-team members will be honored Monday at the annual Utah Football Coaches Association All-State awards banquet.