There are more than a few reasons why the Bingham High football team hasn’t lost to a Utah opponent since the 2015 state semifinals.
Those were on full display Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium as the methodical Miners earned the right to play for their second straight championship by defeating Herriman 31-7 in a Class 6A state semifinal.
It’s not that Bingham is perfect. The Miners did lose a fumble that led to Herriman’s only touchdown. But they are so fundamentally sound in all facets of the game that they seldom make a mistake.
Whether it’s defensive back Tanner Merrill making two spectacular interceptions, including one returned for a 36-yard touchdown, or kicker Brandon Lopez hitting field goals at key moments, Bingham just excels.
Stop the Miners’ running game, and quarterback Ryan Wood is capable of passing it. Shut down the passing attack, and Bingham will hurt you from the ground.
And like most teams that play Bingham, Herriman struggled for every first down against great line play. The Mustangs’ only touchdown, a 9-yard pass from Blake Freeland to Alexander Anderson, came as a result of a fumble recovery on the Bingham 8.
Bingham’s talent ultimately just wears down teams.
“They are really good at taking away what you do best,” said Herriman coach Dustin Pearce, whose team rebounded from an 0-5 start to make the state semifinals. “Their offensive line is well coached. They are precise at what they do. They always have two or three guys up front that give you fits.”
Bingham’s Merrill set the tone for the game in the first quarter when he grabbed an interception that bounced off two players and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown.
That would be the first of six Miners interceptions in the game.
“The defense was lights out from the start,” Bingham coach John Lambourne said.
The Miners, who had shut out Herriman in the past three meetings between the two schools, made an uncharacteristic mistake, coughing up a fumble on their own 8 that allowed the Mustangs to tie the game 7-7.
“We had to figure out ourselves there for a bit,” Lambourne said. “There were situational things that led to slow start, but a lot of that had to do with some of the things they were accomplishing. It comes down to individual battles, and they were winning some of those.”
Bingham had little to worry about when Wood got warmed up. The quarterback hit 7 of 16 passes for 120 yards that included touchdown passes to Brayden Cosper and Brandon Wissler in addition to 56 yards rushing.
“Everyone around the board — offensive line, backs, me, receivers — I think we just started executing at a higher level and obviously started getting rolling,” Wood said.
Lopez added a 26-yard field goal, and Wissler capped the scoring with a 7-yard run.
So the Miners return to the finals against the state’s other national football power, East, which moved up a class this season.
Merrill, for one, was happy to be back.
“It means a lot,” Bingham’s defensive star said. “We’ve been here for the last few years. It’s what’s expected of us. Everybody said if we lose this game, this season’s a failure. We are going to the state championship.
BINGHAM 31, HERRIMAN 7
• Bingham’s Tanner Merrill makes two spectacular interceptions and returns one for the Miners’ first touchdown. The Miners get six interceptions.
• Bingham, which has not lost to a Utah team since falling to Lone Peak in the 2015 state semifinals, will meet East for the Class 6A state title.
• Herriman, which lost its first five games only to rebound into the state semifinals, sees its upset hopes disappear in the second half.