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Tanner Critchfield knows his selection as The Tribune's Class 4A boys' soccer MVP is a reflection on his defense as well as his goalkeeping skills.

Murray was one of the state's stingiest defenses with Critchfield in the nets, allowing just two goals during region play and 11 during the season. Only Ogden (seven) and St. Joseph (eight) allowed fewer goals this season.

"One of the greatest benefits was having a defense that understood their responsibilities so I didn't have to remind them and could focus on my own," Critchfield said. "If they did their job as they knew how, I wouldn't even have to touch the ball. That was a big relief and was very helpful to me."

Critchfield recorded 12 shutouts this season — tied for first in the state with Ogden's Auggie Garcia. He had separate streaks of four and five consecutive shutouts.

Critchfield, a converted midfielder, trusted his defense to perform.

"If there were any mistakes, I trusted myself to pick up any slack," he said. "I did my job as well as they did their job. We had a lot of team chemistry. Whenever someone made a good play, it was always recognized. We were always able to help each other out. They made my job a lot easier."

The Spartans, who reached the 4A state championship game in 2012, advanced to the state semifinals before losing to Bountiful in a penalty kick shootout this season. Murray won the Region 7 championship at 9-0-1 and was 14-2-3 overall. The two losses, which came against Bountiful and Bingham, were by a single goal.

"We were a little disappointed not to make it to the final and win it," Critchfield, 16, said. "It was a large learning experience. We've had great success in continuing to be consistent and get to the playoffs."

The incoming junior also is proud of something more personal. In just one season, he had more shutouts than his brother, Spencer, did in his career (11). Spencer now is serving an LDS mission in New York.

"There were lots of different circumstances, but my brother was a great goalie," said Tanner, who grew up watching Spencer play. "I didn't start out as a goalie, but when the opportunity exposed itself, I decided to take it. It was very helpful to learn from him. It's something we're both good at."

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