Draper • Corner Canyon High senior wide receiver Noah Kjar remembers when he first thought Jaxson Dart was the real deal.
It was back in January during a camp in California. Dart’s trainer asked him to roll out and throw a pass about 50 yards down the field along the sideline, in stride. Dart completed the pass to Kjar perfectly.
“Dang, this kid is going to be really good,” Noah Kjar recalled thinking. “It’s going to be a really fun year.”
The Chargers are preparing to play for another 6A state title Friday against the Lone Peak Knights at Cedar Valley High School at 11 a.m. They won it last season and also won the 5A title in 2018.
For the past two seasons, Cole Hagen, who is on his way to Yale, had led the Corner Canyon offense. Now it’s in the hands of Dart, a senior in his first and final year with the Chargers after transferring from Roy.
Dart broke the state record for touchdown passes in a season in the 6A semifinal game against East. He now stands at 63. The previous record, 58, was set by Cammon Cooper of Lehi High in 2017. With 4,362 passing yards, Dart is 365 yards away from also breaking Cooper’s single-season state record of 4,726 yards, also set in 2017.
This has been the year of Dart’s high school career. He didn’t get a lot of recruiting attention at Roy, a school he said he left because he liked better the way Corner Canyon used its quarterbacks. Since his arrival to the Draper school, he’s received interest from myriad high profile schools.
Dart told The Salt Lake Tribune that he has narrowed his choices to five programs: USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Washington State and BYU. He’s considered a four-star recruit by 247Sports and ESPN.
But when he first got to the Chargers, he felt some nerves.
“I didn’t know anybody,” Dart said. “I came in kind of blind.”
Friday’s state football title game schedule:
Corner Canyon (13-0) vs. Lone Peak (12-1), 11 a.m., Cedar Valley HS, KJZZ
Sky View (12-0) vs. Pine View (12-1), Saturday, 2 p.m., Dixie State University
Orem (7-2) vs. Timpview (7-4), 3 p.m., Cedar Valley HS, KJZZ
Luckily for the Chargers, Dart and his new receivers participated in some 7-on-7 tournaments before COVID-19 affected high school sports. That gave him a head start on fostering the relationships he would need when the games started.
During that time and in the months since, the Chargers have gotten to know Dart on and off the field. The arm talent is evident and featured every week on the field. But some characteristics aren’t.
Dart’s teammates say he’s ultra competitive, even more so than the average athlete. He makes competitions out of every little thing from weight training sessions to mobile games to pickle ball tournaments. Senior wide receiver Cody Hagen said if Dart loses at pickle ball, he’ll scout someone while they’re playing someone else in order to beat them the next time around.
“Everything to him is a competition,” Chargers coach Eric Kjar said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. Even the things that aren’t football he competes in all the time. … For him, that switch never turns off.”
Dart said he’s had a competitive side since his younger days when his parents taught him competition breeds success.
“I just want to be the best at everything I do,” Dart said.
Dart also happens to be the best rusher on Corner Canyon. He’s tallied almost 1,100 rushing yards so far this year. Part of the reason for Dart’s usage in the run game is the injury to senior running back Austin Bell, who tore an ACL very early in the season.
Eric Kjar also likes to run his quarterbacks in his offense. But Dart didn’t run much at Roy, so the coach didn’t really know what he was getting with his new quarterback. It turns out he got plenty, much to his surprise.
“Just to see that it was an option was nice,” Eric Kjar said.
Dart considers himself a lover of “good food,” and his teammates and coaches say he is always eating. But the secret to his success on the field? Nacho Cheese Doritos at halftime of every game — a practice he’s used since sophomore year. He also eats a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chips.
“It’s like how Marshawn Lynch ate Skittles during the game,” Dart said in jest. “I eat Doritos at halftime.”
The real reason for Dart’s meteoric rise this season is probably more nuanced than a particular bag of chips. He’s considered a natural leader by his teammates, who voted him a team captain. Additionally, Dart is sociable and an easy person to get along with.
His talent alone earned him the respect of at least one of his receivers.
“A good leader is always one of the better players on the team and he definitely is,” Hagen said. “He’s making throws you never see, never expect anyone to really make — even the best. So that’s what makes him a leader.”
Dart has the opportunity on Friday to win his first state title as a high school player. He got to the semifinal with Roy in his sophomore year. And while he acknowledged it’s been his dream to win a state title, he also knows it will take the whole team to get there.
“I know that we’re ready,” Dart said. “We’ve put in so much work. It’s going to pay off and I have confidence that we’re going to take it all.”