Their knees crouched and their nerves eased. The Miners formed a sea of blue on the turf at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Fourteen weeks of football had passed, and each one was capped with a victory. The Class 5A state crown they salivated over finally was theirs, waiting to be held high.
But Bingham collectively stood out of its crouch and let out the roars of a celebratory Haka dance to appropriately end a season — and team — to remember. Once the Miners finished, they sprinted after the 5A title trophy they had just won with a 38-13 win over Region 3 rival Brighton on Friday evening.
Jumping up and down on the red block “U” at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Bingham chanted, hollering and acknowledging the Miners just had won the school’s eighth state title and finished the year without a blemish at 14-0.
“It’s a remarkable thing,” Bingham coach Dave Peck said. “I told these guys if we go get this done, I’m going to remember them for being a team that dared to be great and put us back into the elite status instead of just being a good team.”
The Miners were great and answered each bit of adversity tossed their way in the state championship game against the Bengals. When quarterback Kyle Gearig was knocked out of the game while tackling Brighton’s Sione Heimuli-Lund on his 46-yard interception return for a touchdown, Bingham’s 21-13 halftime lead suddenly was tenuous.
But as they had so many times this season, the Miners turned to running back Scott Nichols, who shouldered the load in the second half. His 19-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter cemented his 27-carry, 165-yard outing.
And the stout Miner defense handcuffed the Bengals. Brighton capitalized on both of Bingham’s turnovers, but the Bingham defense held the versatile Brighton offense to six points in a state championship game. Up 31-13 late, the Miners padded their lead on a 62-yard interception return by Sky Manu.
“Coming from a Bingham program, the expectation is always high,” Manu said. “State was like expected. We knew some players had to work hard to get to their potential. By Week 1, we knew the potential was there.”
Star tight end Dalton Schultz said he dreamed of the moment he suddenly was in. Missing out on the state final the last two years didn’t sit well with the heralded program.
“Everybody on this team felt like they had something to prove after the last two years,” Schultz said. “We’ve kind of dropped out of the talks and the other teams were better. We came into every game this year with a chip on our shoulder.”
Packing his football bag for the final time this season, linebacker Daniel Langi said there was something special about the team.
“There’s been a lot of special teams in the past,” he said, “but I think something that sets us apart from most Bingham teams is ... we’re all about the team. We’re all selfless.”
O Scott Nichols rushes for 165 yards and scores two touchdowns, and Bingham shuts out Brighton in the second half to win the 5A state title.
• Brighton claws to within 21-13 in the second quarter.