WASHINGTON TERRACE — Joe Cloward limped off the soccer field midway through the second half of a 2-2 game between Bonneville and Ben Lomond.

To say it was a vital game would’ve been an understatement, given the tight level of competition that gripped Region 11 boys soccer this year.

Cloward sat down on the bench and got a drink of water. A couple minutes later, Lakers head coach Jared Anderson turned to him and said, “Joe, whenever you’re ready.” Cloward sprang up and went back in the game.

Seven minutes later he got his head on a cross and tied the game 3-3. Later, he sprinted past a defender and created a chance that resulted in a corner kick.

The Lakers would eventually lose on a golden goal, but anyone who was watching Cloward for the first time in that microcosm would’ve realized Bonneville was another, scarier level of threatening with Cloward on the field.

“(He’s an) extremely talented player, does a really good job, hustles and works really hard. If you get to know him, he’s a real tender-hearted kid, but also really funny,” Lakers head coach Jared Anderson said.

In the 2019 season, Cloward turned from mainly a goal distributor into a goal supplier. In 2018, he played up top with Jaiden Marriott, who scored 26 goals as the Lakers won a Region 11 championship. Cloward had 16 assists and 12 goals in that campaign.

This season he did the bulk of the scoring. Cloward bagged 23 goals with nine assists, earning 2019 Standard-Examiner All-Area Boys Soccer MVP honors.

It got to the point where, during that same Lakers’ home game with Ben Lomond, Cloward made a run to get open behind the defense and was through on goal before he even got the ball, prompting a teammate on the bench to yell, “Goal run!”

It was also at a point where one coach described dealing with Bonneville and Cloward’s goalscoring prowess as “Team Joe.”

Cloward was prolific in non-region play against teams that didn’t know him very well.

Once Region 11 play started, teams knew who he was and defended him as such. He saw plenty of double teams and other tactics from squads whose lone objective was to somehow stop No. 8.

Cloward still scored, though it was progressively harder to do so as the year went on.

There would be a point in every game where it just wasn’t feasible to sprint past two defenders, so Cloward would instead send the ball into a dangerous area for a teammate.

“I didn’t go in thinking, ‘Oh, I’m the only way I can save this team.’ I knew we had plenty of other people who were good enough,” Cloward said. “It’s just, to do my job I needed to score a lot because people were going to start cluing in on me this year because I’m the only forward that (was returning). I just knew that I had to kind of switch up my game a little bit too.”

The dangerous areas were a little less crowded because of the attention teams gave him.

In the end, the Lakers scored a Region 11-best 42 goals with teammates Brandon Bejarano (six goals) and Payton Sevy (five goals) cashing in often.

“Towards the end of the year I had to rely on the team more, because I realized I wasn’t going to score enough to win the games by myself,” Cloward said.

There was one stretch in late March when the Lakers, Cloward in particular, turned on the jets and put their stamp on a couple of games.

First, it was a 6-0 win over Juan Diego on a Wednesday where he and Bejarano netted hat tricks, a game that Cloward calls the best all-around performance of the season.

Two days later at Park City — with snow berms surrounding the field on a cold, cloudy day — Cloward worked his magic again to bring Bonneville back from a 3-1 second-half deficit.

He does not enjoy playing in the cold, by the way.

“For like 3-5 minutes the sun came out and, as soon as that sun came out, I scored one goal. Then the sun went away, then 10 minutes later the sun came out again and I scored again because I’m like a plant and I operate by photosynthesis, I don’t know,” he joked.

In the second period of extra time against the Miners, Cloward slid and scored the game-winner to make it a 4-3 final score, completing a big comeback win for the team as well as a hat trick for him, personally.

He felt bad about it, he says, because fellow forward Kyle West had a wide-open shot that Cloward says for sure was going to go in, except it careened off Cloward’s face despite him trying to drop out of the way.

The game-winner, though, brought more baggage: a broken bone in his right foot that flared up and hampered him for the rest of the season. It didn’t hinder his desire, though.

“I hate sitting out,” Cloward said.

He kept playing the rest of the season. Bonneville ultimately missed the playoffs despite winning six region games. One can thank an abnormally close and competitive region for that.

Apart from the golden touch in front of goal, Cloward is also known to coaches and teammates for what’s described as a dry sense of humor.

“It could be the most weird situation and he’d say something off the wall, and you’d look at him and laugh. Part of the entertainment was just showing up to practice and seeing what he would say,” Anderson said.

Cloward says a lot of the sense of humor comes from his older brother, Tom.

The love of soccer comes from his dad, Rick, who coached both Tom and Joe’s club soccer teams growing up. Joe, who has always been a forward, said he attributes “100 percent” of the success he’s had in soccer to his dad.

“My dad tried to play me at defense once and that lasted like two games until we couldn’t figure out how to score, so they put me back up top,” he said.

Cloward isn’t sure what’s in the future after his upcoming mission to Recife, Brazil, for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. College soccer wasn’t really in his plans, he said.

The odds are good that Cloward will walk by a group of kids in the streets of Recife playing soccer. If nothing else, some fútbol with the locals may change his mind for when he comes back in two years.

MVP FINALISTS

Rafael Silverio, Layton Christian

The Brazilian forward spearheaded Layton Christian’s goal-scoring empire, bagging 26 goals with six assists en route to the Eagles’ second state title in three seasons.

Virtually every time Silverio touched the ball inside the 18-yard box, he scored. Silverio netted five hat tricks and had a season-high five goals against Parowan in the playoffs.

You can reach prep sports reporter Patrick Carr via email at pcarr@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @patrickcarr_ and on Facebook at facebook.com/patrickcarr17/.

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