South Jordan • Former Bingham quarterback Matt Degn was sitting with would-be successor Ryan Wood at dinner after winning the 2016 state title when he gave Wood the piece of advice that stuck with his understudy.
“Be the guy,” Degn said.
Wood stepped into the role of starting quarterback this season and has led Bingham to the Class 6A state championship game against rival East. The Miners enter Friday’s title game undefeated and averaging five touchdowns per game.
Bingham coach John Lambourne said he is not surprised by how smooth Wood’s transition has been.
“Ryan last year as a junior could have been a starter at many schools,” Lambourne said.
Degn was the reason Wood wasn’t a starter at Bingham. Yet a bond between quarterbacks is common at Bingham, according to Lambourne, and Degn and Wood were no different.
“He was always ‘the guy’ here,” Wood said.
Wood said he learned how to lead from Degn, and Degn told him in that conversation after the state championship to always be in control of the offense and willing to help anyone on the team.
Wood started at quarterback on the junior varsity team and took a few snaps at quarterback at the end of blowouts throughout last season. He also filled in at running back on varsity toward the end of the season.
“It was just kind of weird not being in control of the offense that way and being more of a piece into it,” he said “But it was fun.”
When Wood claimed the starting spot this season, he already was familiar with the members of his offense, especially his fellow seniors, from moving up the ranks with them over the years. He knew all of Bingham’s schemes, and his dual-threat style was similar to Degn’s.
“Our offense requires that [versatility], but our offense also promotes it,” Lambourne said. “You’re not going to be just a running quarterback in our system, and you’re not going to be just a passing quarterback typically.”
Friday’s state championship games
At Rice-Eccles Stadium, University of Utah
Class 4A • Mountain Crest vs. Orem, 11 a.m.
Class 5A • Skyridge vs. Lehi, 6:30 p.m.
Class 6A • Bingham vs. East, 2:30 p.m.
The speed of the varsity game was the biggest adjustment for Wood, but that became natural for Wood within a few weeks, too. Everything clicked against Hawaii’s Kahuku High on Sept. 9, he said, and he felt in control in the 17-0 win in Las Vegas.
Wood’s personality on the field is almost a direct reflection of Bingham’s identity. The Miners wear down their opponents with constant pressure rather than bursts of dominance. And Wood?
“He’s just steady,” Lambourne said.
Wood didn’t panic in last week’s semifinal game when Bingham failed to score a touchdown on offense until late in the first half against Herriman. The Miners went on to win 31-7 as Wood threw two touchdown passes and rushed for 56 yards.
Several of Wood’s teammates had flashier plays than he did in a game in which Bingham grabbed six interceptions.
But in his own quiet way, Wood was “the guy.”