5A football: Jensen guides Bingham to title in second half
Bingham, which led by eight at halftime, didn't need a star to come in for its injured quarterback.
It needed an experienced, even-keeled vet. It needed someone who could keep the lead, not worrying for the time being about extending it.
The Miners needed Kade Jensen, a senior backup who was asked simply to hold on in the biggest game of his life. A perfect season and Class 5A state title on the line, the long-haired senior did just that.
"They told me they got my back," Jensen said. "They told me, 'Go out, do what you know how to do and just ball out.'"
Jensen's stat line 30 yards rushing and an incomplete pass won't be long remembered. But his composure will be, as will the way his team got squarely behind him.
Bingham enjoyed a dream start to Friday night's contest, skimming out to a 21-0 lead before the end of the first quarter. The Miners were led by their starting passer, junior Kyle Gearig, who threw two touchdowns and ran for another to build the advantage.
But Brighton's defense flipped every bit of momentum with a pick-six by Sione Heimuli-Lund just before halftime. While attempting to tackle the defensive back, Gearig was knocked unconscious for "20 or 30 seconds," coach Dave Peck estimated.
He answered questions coherently and wanted to return. Peck and his staff knew that wouldn't be possible.
"We let our medical people make those decisions, and they said, 'We don't feel good about him coming back,'" Peck said. "I said, 'OK, the next guy's gotta step it up.'"
The next guy: Jensen.
Stepping in under center, he didn't have to do much: keep it and run or hand off to Scott Nichols, who carried the rock for 165 yards and added a second-half touchdown. But with Jensen at the helm, Bingham kept possession for all but 39 seconds in the third quarter a killer for Brighton.
"We tried not to put him in a tough spot," Peck said. "As far as throwing situations, we tried to get him running the ball, get his feet a little bit wet and then try to do a little bit more. In a way, he was terrific, and also, in the second half, the O-line said, 'We are not losing this game.'"
For his part, Jensen called winning the game "unexplainable" as he reflected on earning a championship banner in his final year at Bingham. Playing a whole half was the most action he saw this year, he said.
Gearig, who was sidelined for the second half, found himself happy as well for his teammate.
"It honestly means so much to me," he said. "He's been there for me all season, helping me with everything. It made me really happy to see how well he did out there."