The high school football season is two weeks old, meaning of course it's the perfect time to begin speculating about who will be this year's recipient of the Deseret News' Mr. Football award.
The race is still wide open for the prestigious pigskin prize, which honors the state's top football player. At this point, though, Granger's Fahu Tahi, Hunter's David Fiefia and Grantsville's Alan Mouritsen are among the early-season favorites to succeed former Highland High star Morgan Scalley. The U. of U. signee was named Utah's first Mr. Football last year.Obviously, plenty will happen before the season ends in late November. Still, here's a look at the top early contenders for Mr. Football:
- FAHU TAHI, Granger RB: Lancers' standout running back combines strength and speed to torture defenders who try to solo tackle him. He's off to a solid start, having racked up about 320 rushing yards and three touchdowns in two games for the state's sixth-ranked team. Tahi averaged just over 20 yards a carry against Cyprus last Friday.
As a junior, the 6-foot, 215-pounder rushed for 2,136 yards and scored 27 touchdowns in leading Granger to an unexpected 5A semifinal spot. He had a huge game in the quarterfinals against Northridge, when he powered his way to 326 yards rushing including two 80-yard TD runs as well as scoring rushes from 59 and 57 out. No wonder he was a near-unanimous first-team Deseret News All-State player as an underclassman.
Early odds of winning - 3:1.
- DAVID FIEFIA, Hunter RB: Quick-as-a-cat running back is getting more ink for his defensive prowess than his dazzling offensive skills so far this year. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder has already picked off four passes in just two games from his defensive back position. He intercepted three American Fork passes in the season opener, including a goal-line snag that clinched the win for the state's second-highest ranked team.
Fiefia hasn't disappointed offensively, either. He's rushed 28 times for 157 yards and he had three touchdowns vs. Cottonwood. He also has a TD reception.
He was a first-team all-stater his junior season, when he gained over 1,200 yards on the ground and scored 20 TDs.
Odds - 4:1.
- ALAN MOURITSEN, Grantsville RB: If there were a prep fantasy football game, Mouritsen would easily be the top pick in every draft. He consistently racks up more yards and touchdowns than any other player in the state. In his first two games this year, he's scored six times and totaled over 600 all-purpose yards for 2A's top-ranked Cowboys. The senior is only 19 TDs away from breaking the state career TD-scoring record.
Amazingly, his current TD pace is below what it was a year ago. Mouritsen earned Deseret News 2A MVP honors after setting a single-season state record by scoring 42 touchdowns for two-time champion Grantsville. He also rushed for a state-high 2,300-plus yards in '97.
Stats like that make it easy to overlook the fact that he plays at a small school.
Odds - 7:1.
- SAIA VAIVAKA, Jordan RB: This strong running back is one of the big reasons the Beetdiggers are rolling this year. The 5-9, 210-pound senior has rumbled to about 250 yards and four touchdowns in Jordan's first two victories.
Vaivaka rushed for 1,200 yards as an honorable-mention all-stater a year ago. He busted loose for a school-record 323 yards and three TDs on only 13 carries against Woods Cross last September.
Odds - 10:1.
- JOE LOMU, Hunter RB: As if handling one great running back wasn't tough enough, the Wolverines' opponents also have to worry about the talented but often overlooked Lomu. His offensive statistics are actually even better than Fiefia's. Lomu has rushed 25 times for 156 yards for an average of 6.2 yards a carry. He also scored three times against the Colts, twice on runs and once on a punt return. Lomu ran for over 1,000 yards and earned second-team All-State status as a junior.
Odds - 15:1.
- ANTHONY PARKER, Granite RB: Small, flashy runner presents a threat to score whenever he gets the ball. He rushed for 237 yards and two TDs last week against Lehi, and he gained almost 200 total yards with a score in the Farmers' opener against Grantsville. The 5-7 speedster is Class 3A's only returning first-team all-stater.
Odds - 15:1.
- JASON STEPHENS, Logan TE: Younger brother of BYU Parade All-American Brandon Stephens is making a name for himself as a tight end and defensive end. His size (6-4, 220 pounds) and speed (4.7 40-yard dash) make him a tough guy to stop. So far, Stephens has hauled in 13 catches for four touchdowns and 233 yards.
Odds - 20:1.
Some other quality running backs include Donnie Saba (Brighton), Rodregis Smith (West), Tyler Kukahiko (Orem), Dave Revill (Alta), Mike Bird (Layton) and D.J. Thayne (Jordan).
Lance Pendleton (Dixie), Jake Schroeder (Bingham) and Jackson Brown (Jordan) are a few of the hot QBs right now.
Receivers to keep an eye on: Brian Romney (Pleasant Grove), Greg Black (Hillcrest), Brett Cooper (Bonneville) and Cody Fonnesbeck (Dixie).
If there's a lineman who deserves to be mentioned it has to be Nebraska-bound Ryon Bingham of Alta.