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(Steve Griffin | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bingham head coach Dave Peck shows his quickness as he dodges his players as they try and drench him in water as the final seconds tick off the clock giving Bingham a victory over Brighton during second half action in the 5A championship football game at Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah Friday, November 22, 2013.
Prep football: A tale of two Utah football programs

Bingham and Cyprus are separated geographically by just 17 miles. But competitively, they’re much further apart than that.

First Published Aug 16 2014 03:15 pm • Last Updated Aug 16 2014 11:02 pm

The Bingham and Cyprus High football programs should have much in common.

Both schools trace their roots to the blue-collar families who once worked at the Kennecott Copper Mine and Smelter. The Miners and Pirates represent communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley that contain loyal fan bases.

At a glance

Factors impacting prep football success

» Open enrollment

» Socioeconomics

» Facilities

» School size

» Youth football programs

» Tradition

» Coaching staffs

» Specialization

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Yet, as far as success goes, the 17 miles that separate Bingham and Cyprus are as great as the length of the entire state. Since Cyprus alum and former Pirates coach Dave Peck took over Bingham’s program 14 years ago, he has led the Miners to a 141-36 record. The team has won four state titles since 2006 after going 60 years without a football gold trophy. In ten of the last 14 years, Bingham has played in either the state semifinals or title game.

The Miners’ worst mark in the decade is 9-3.

Cyprus, which won its last state football title in 1944, has struggled. Since 2003, the Pirates are 32-75. Their only winning season came in 2007, when they were 6-5 and lost in the first round of the state tournament.

What is the difference between schools such as Timpview, with seven state titles since 2004, Duchesne with five and Bingham and Juan Diego with four each, and teams fielded by nearby institutions such as Cyprus, Murray or Hillcrest that have struggled mightily? Murray has won just one football game in each of the last three seasons. Hillcrest was 1-9 last year, preceded by three straight 3-7 seasons.

What accounts for the lopsided playing field?

Money, open enrollment help » Major factors include socioeconomics, open enrollment, facilities and integration of youth football into the high school programs.

Peck, who grew up in Magna and coached at Hunter and Cyprus before coming to Bingham, has a unique perspective on the differences in the two programs.

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"As a west side guy, I did think Bingham was the best of all worlds," he said. "We have more of a higher level economically. South Jordan is comparable to the east side schools. That plays a role. So you have the combination of having a little bit of an economic advantage along with the west side kids’ mentality, and that pushes you over the edge. We still have that blue-collar work ethic, where you fight, scratch and claw for whatever you get."

Peck also said open enrollment, a policy that allows students to attend any school they choose, plays a factor in Bingham’s success. He said the Miners get three to five athletes a year from out of the South Jordan school’s boundaries.

"When you have a good program, people accuse you of recruiting," he said. "I like to shoot that down. But I am not going to lie. Our program, because of the success we have, recruits a kid. They move in from out of state and see we play an out-of-state school every year and that we have a national reputation."

Cyprus coach Scott Woolridge has felt the sting of losing players to other programs. This summer, for example, the athlete he regarded as perhaps his best lineman transferred to Skyline. In the three years he has been at Cyprus, as many as five potential starters have left for other schools.

"Coaches don’t do a ton of recruiting," he said. "But there are opportunities. Kids or parents see a school doing well and think they can do better there than they can in another place. Peck’s built a great program. They are on ESPN every year. Kids think that if they go to Bingham, they are recognized by colleges. What they don’t realize is that anywhere you go, you get recognized by colleges. Kids and parents don’t understand that."

Rob Cuff, executive director of the Utah High School Activities Association, said open enrollment helps some schools stay strong in football.

"Students and parents are going to choose schools based on activities, just like they might for a math, English or physics department," said Cuff. "They want to go where their kids can be the most successful, boundary or not."

Building a foundation » Lori Jacketta, president of the Cyprus Booster Parent Club, watches her son play high school football for the Pirates. Her daughter is on the drill team and a younger son plays youth football. She and Woolridge both say community support isn’t an issue for the Pirates. Win or lose, the Magna community usually packs the stands each Friday night when the big "C" on the Oquirrh Mountains above the school lights up.

But Jacketta said losing athletes to other schools due to open enrollment hurts the team, and she’s stumped as to what to do about it.

"I wish there were an answer," she said. "Sometimes the kids could get more playing time out here instead of going to the bigger schools."

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