It’s been one heck of a 10-year (or so) ride for the Bingham Miners. Before 2006, the school’s only appearance in a state championship game came in 1974.
But the Miners have been regulars and have taken the crown six times from 2006 to 2016.
For those hoping for a dropoff from the reigning Class 5A state champions, the new Class 6A might end up seeing a familiar participant in the finals.
Although Bingham graduated several key players from a team that was unbeaten in state — the Miners lost to St. Thomas Aquinas in a game arranged after the teams earned championships in Utah and Florida, respectively — Bingham coach John Lambourne returns six starters on offense and seven on defense.
“I like our team a lot. I think we have a lot of kids who will be anxious for their opportunity to shine,” said Lambourne, adding that the current Miners’ legacy will be established much later in the season. “I don’t think you can ever make that comparison [to last year’s team] this early in the season. It’s a little unfair to make it until the end.”
Coach • John Lambourne, third year
Last season • 14-0, 6-0 in Region 3
State championships • 2006, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016
Other state title game appearances • 1974, 2008
Aug. 18 • Orem, 7 p.m.
Aug. 25 • East, 7 p.m.
Aug. 31 (Thurs.) • at Herriman, 7 p.m.
Sept. 9 (Sat.) • Kahuku (Hawaii), 8 p.m. in Las Vegas
Sept. 15 • Pleasant Grove, 7 p.m.
Sept. 22 • at Westlake, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29 • Lone Peak, 7 p.m.
Oct. 6 • at Hunter, 7 p.m.
Oct. 13 • at American Fork, 7 p.m.
Behind center • The quarterback spot is up for grabs with the graduation of Matt Degn. It will come down to players who played the position on the sub-varsity level a year ago. Senior Ryan Wood (6 foot, 160 pounds) was the QB on the junior varsity squad, while junior Peyton Jones (6-2, 160) was the signal-caller for the sophomore team in 2016. Don’t be surprised to find either player line up at other spots on the offense. Wood saw time at running back and wide receiver on the JV. Senior Amoni Kaili (6-0, 200), who had 50 carries in 2016, likely will see more time at running back, while junior Braedon Wissler (5-9, 175) and senior Jackson Walker (5-7, 175) also should get more carries.
Ball hawks • The Miners have a pair of wide receivers in Brayden Cosper and Dax Milne who should be the envy of almost any high school team. BYU-bound Cosper (6-3, 190) caught 49 balls for 792 yards last year, and Milne (6-1, 175), who was on Bingham’s state-championship basketball team with Cosper, grabbed 25 receptions for 471 yards. “They’re no secret. They’re prepared to take on that leadership role,” Lambourne said. Cosper is a problem spot for defenses because he can line up anywhere from tight end to the sideline. “He’s a tough matchup. He has a large-ranging skill set,” Lambourne said. Another with a nose for the football is Jaylon Vickers (5-11, 190), who snared three interceptions as a junior last year.
In the trenches • The Miners bring back three starters, the building blocks for a good offensive line. Senior Camden Brown (6-5, 235) is back at left tackle. He’ll be joined by Tevita Angilau (6-1, 255) at a guard position, and his cousin Amanaki Angilau (6-1, 255) will be at center. Besides snapping the ball, Amanaki Angilau also will be a candidate to see some time on the defensive line. Simote Pepa (6-2, 300) proved himself as a big hole-plugger last year and now is expected to continue his starting role at nose guard.
Hit men • Senior Tanner Merrill (5-8, 165), who recorded 26 tackles last season, may play cornerback. “You don’t just play back in our defense,” Lambourne said. “Everyone is expected to come up and make tackles.” Senior Cole Moody (6-1, 185) did that 53 times from his strong safety position in 2016. Bingham has plenty of returning experience at linebacker in senior Kobi Matagi (6-2, 195), while senior Saleka Ataata (5-10, 220) and junior Lolani Langi (6-2, 215) had a collective 114 tackles for a defensive unit that allowed 14 points or less 11 times last season.
Key returners • Brayden Cosper, Sr. (WR); Dax Milne, Sr. (WR); Simote Pepa (NG); Lolani Langi (LB)
Key losses • Jay Tufele, DL; Langi Tuifua, LB/DL; Matt Degn, QB; Daniel Loua, RB/DB
The next wave • Ryan Wood, Sr. (QB/RB); Peyton Jones, Jr. (QB); Timote Tafuna, Jr. (LB)