1A football MVP: Duchesne's McKade Nielsen
Duchesne senior McKade Nielsen did it all.
On offense, Nielsen was the best pass-catcher in Class 1A as a tight end.
Defensively, Nielsen was one of the most dynamic defensive backs in any classification. He was the best player on a great Duchesne team, and he helped lead the Eagles to a third straight state title.
"We as seniors came in knowing we were going to have to work twice as hard to do it this time," Nielsen said. "We knew if we lost, we would have let the whole community down."
Nielsen forced opponents to account for him on every play, and they still couldn't stop him. He led Class 1A with 10 touchdown receptions, four more than any other player. He topped 100 yards receiving twice and averaged 22.8 yards per reception. Summit Academy was the lone team to hold him without a catch this season.
While Nielsen was phenomenal offensively, he prides himself more on his defensive accomplishments. He led all classifications with 11 interceptions, and had three games with two picks.
"I would much rather intercept a pass than catch one. I just think defense is tougher," Nielsen said. "It's a lot harder to catch a pass from the other team's quarterback than it is from your own."
That defense-first philosophy took center stage when Duchesne was under the ultimate spotlight. Nielsen recovered a fumble in the second quarter and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown against Rich in the state championship game. That recovery gave the Eagles a 14-point lead.
Nielsen later picked off a pass that set up another Duchesne touchdown early in the third quarter to ice the game.
Nielsen also played a big role in his team's victory over Monticello in the state semifinals. His 24-yard touchdown reception opened the scoring for the Eagles, and he intercepted a pass on defense.
Nielsen had five games where he intercepted a pass and also caught a touchdown on offense.
Nielsen headlined a senior class that leaves as one of the most successful classes in Utah state football history. Not only did Nielsen and his class win three consecutive titles, they also ended their careers on a 34-game winning streak, two shy of the state record. They did all that even with every other team gunning for them, and they made it look easy.
"I loved that we had a target on our backs," Nielsen said. "That added pressure just fueled our fire, and it showed in what we were able to do."