The 2013 high school football season featured a record six classifications and 103 programs. Thousands of athletes accounted for 28,441 points in 1,126 games from late August into mid-November. Countless accomplishments were viewed every Friday across Utah.
For Bingham’s Scott Nichols, Timpview’s Britain Covey, Pine View’s Kody Wilstead, Judge Memorial’s Kaden Elliss, South Summit’s Colby Averett and Duchesne’s Trent Roberts, their nightly contributions guided their teams to incredible heights, including a combined five state championships. As a result, the Deseret News has recognized those six players as MVPs of their respected classifications.
Scott Nichols, Bingham
In Nichols’ recruitment video, his highlights are complemented by the voice of motivational speaker Eric Thomas. “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful.”
Nichols embodied the sentiment. Undersized in physical attributes, he willed himself to 1,832 yards and 20 touchdowns on 242 carries in Bingham’s 14-0 championship run. That rushing total outstretched any single-season performance by his predecessors — Jonathan Cuff, Doug Fiefia, Sam and Harvey Langi and Daniel Palepoi.
“What made him a special running back is since he was an eighth-grader everybody admired him because of his work ethic,” Bingham coach Dave Peck said. “He put his heart and soul into it. You do that on a daily basis and you gain a lot of respect from everybody in the program.
“Scott Nichols is as good of running back as I’ve coached,” Peck continued. “When it comes down to putting guys on the field and trying to win games, I’d take him. He’s been spectacular for us.”
On four separate occasions Nichols surpassed 200 yards, including a 275-yard, three-touchdown effort in a quarterfinal matchup against Riverton.
“Very seldom does the first guy that hits him take him down. He just inspired the rest of the guys around him,” Peck said. “He’s the reason we probably went undefeated. I thought Scotty was our best player.”
Britain Covey, Timpview
Throughout Timpview’s second consecutive title run, the T-Birds' defense garnered the majority of the publicity, and justifiably so. However, after Covey inherited responsibilities behind center in Week 3, the Thunderbirds averaged 43.4 points per game.
“If you have a great quarterback then you’re going to have a great offense,” Timpview coach Cary Whittingham said.
Covey completed nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts for 1,890 yards and 26 touchdowns, compared to only six interceptions, while adding 1,264 yards and 18 touchdowns with his feet.
“He was everything you’d want in a quarterback,” Whittingham said. “Somebody who could make great decisions; somebody that could read the defenses and put the ball where you wanted him to put it; and then the physical threat he is to pull the ball down and run at any point are the things that anyone who has seen knows he’s capable of.”
In five games, Covey exceeded 100 yards through the air and on the ground.
“When you look at what an MVP means to a team he fits the bill perfectly for what he meant to the Timpview football team over the course of the season and the playoffs,” Whittingham said. "He stepped in and did anything and everything we could ask for him and more.”
Kody Wilstead, Pine View
Wilstead is the only MVP whose team didn’t capture a state championship, but his on-field achievements overcame Pine View’s shortcomings in the final standings. At 6 foot 6, Wilstead threw for 36 touchdowns and 4,390 yards — the second-highest total in state history — in only 12 games.
“Without a doubt,” Pine View coach Ray Hosner said when asked if he believed Wilstead was the best player in 3AA. “He missed the record by 52 yards, so if he had a full schedule I believe he’d shatter that record.”
Wilstead completed 63 percent of his pass attempts, but as Hosner pointed out that didn’t account for drops. He exceeded 300 yards in 10 games and 400 in six games, including a 480-yard performance against Hurricane. He threw for multiple touchdowns in every game except twice against Desert Hills. Pine View quarterback James Lark earned the Deseret News 3A MVP in 2005, but Hosner believes Wilstead is the best QB in school history.
“By far the best because he’s had guys like James work with him a little bit on footwork stuff,” Hosner said. “He’s got the tutelage of great quarterbacks that have come before him. His ability to throw the ball deep; he can stretch the field 70 yards. He’s the only high school player I know that can throw a ball out to the far hash. He’s got all the intangibles to play at the next level. I would put him above most of those guys that have come before him by a long ways.”
Perhaps his career-defining moment came in the semifinals against undefeated and heavily favored Juan Diego when he threw for 402 yards and five touchdowns and rallied his team in the final minutes and overtime. One week later he struggled with his harshest outing of the season in the state championship game.
“Obviously we played in the state championship and it was a windy day and he still didn’t complain and took all the blame,” Hosner said. “He’s a mature kid to not complain about the elements and other things going on.”
Kaden Elliss, Judge Memorial
Elliss conducted the orchestra on offense and closed the curtains on defense. At first glance his numbers aren’t extraordinary. He marginally passed for 714 yards and nine touchdowns with only four interceptions, but in the Bulldogs’ offensive scheme he led the team with 921 yards and 16 scores on the ground.
“He actually has an amazing arm. It just hurt him incredibly bad to throw the ball,” Judge coach James Cordova explained. “Every time he gets hit it’s pretty excruciating. He was amazing on defense as well. If you ask anybody we played when he was out there, you ran away from him.”
Elliss recorded 52 tackles and one interception on defense, but it was his playmaking ability during crucial situations throughout the season that guided Judge to its first state championship in 30 years.
“He had an unbelievable season; actually he’s had two unbelievable seasons at Judge as a quarterback,” Cordova said. “We just didn’t have the ability to support him last year as we did this year.”
Elliss habitually raised his performances in big-time games. He rushed for 119 yards against Manti on a snowy championship game surface. He gunned three touchdowns with 149 yards in the air against previously unbeaten Grantsville, and in the regular season he rushed for three scores and 91 yards against the Templars.
“He has no offers yet, but he has a lot of people that are really interested in him,” Cordova said. “I’m quite convinced that he’ll get an offer.”
Colby Averett, South Summit
At only 5 foot 9 and 165 pounds, Averett used his football IQ and desire en route to racking up 1,404 yards and 20 touchdowns along with 106 tackles, one sack and one interception. Needless to say, Averett did it all for South Summit, which captured its first title since 1988.
“It’s amazing he’s only a junior. He led more by knowing what was going on and helping the others out,” South Summit coach Jerry Parker said. “He’d help the quarterback make his reads pre-snap and defensively he’d help the linemen line up. It was more that type of leadership and by his example of how he played.”
Averett typically earned extra yardage after original contact by using proper leverage, but he also overpowered defenders mentally.
“He’s one of the most motivated players I’ve ever been around,” Parker said. “He does whatever he has to do to get the job done for the team. If we need a first down and it's up to him — he’ll get it. He was sure to get 3 or 4 more extra yards every time. He did a really good job of slithering his way through there.”
Despite the presence other quality players on the Wildcats roster, Parker agreed with the decision to name Averett as the MVP.
“We had some really good players on our team, but the all-around player I’d say he was,” Parker said.
Trent Roberts, Duchesne
Perfection. Roberts finished 25-0 behind center as the starting quarterback for Duchesne the past two seasons, and over his four-year career he accumulated a 48-1 record with four state championships, including winning 47 consecutive games.
The argument is legitimate. Is Roberts the best player in 1A history?
“I can tell you he’s a great 1A player,” Duchesne coach Jerry Cowan said. “I think that his record probably speaks for itself. As far as winning and losing he’s probably as comparable to any player that ever played the game. I’d like to find somebody that had a better record.”
In 2013, Roberts threw for 754 yards and eight touchdowns with 544 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground. Defensively, he recorded 94 tackles and three interceptions.
“Teams planned to try and avoid him on defense, and we had him at free safety in the middle of the field, so it was kind of hard to run away from him,” Cowan explained. “I think both sides of the ball he was very important, but defensively was his standout spot.”
Unlike in years past, the Eagles were challenged this season. Roberts primarily helped starve off upset bids by Monticello and Rich (twice).
“I think he’s really deserving,” Cowan said. “He’s worked hard to get to where he came to. He’s a leader by example: hard-working on and off the field. He’s a kid as a coach that you’re glad to have. He’s totally deserving of it for sure.”
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Photo credits: Kristin Murphy, Laura Seitz, Tom Smart, Deseret News