Bingham quarterback Ryan Wood took the snap on a routine play and never stopped until he reached the end zone.
If any play could illustrate Bingham’s dynasty in Utah high school football, the 5-yard sneak powered by the Miners’ offensive line told the story Friday in a 27-14 win over East for the Class 6A state championship at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I wouldn’t trade our line for anything,” said Wood, who attempted five passes. “That’s their touchdown.”
And this is what Bingham football must have looked like in the 1940s, when Bailey Stantistevans’ teams were ruling the state. The 500th win in Bingham history was a throwback to that era, when the Miners were winning by running the football and playing solid defense at the school’s old site in Copperton.
Fast-forward to Bingham’s seventh title since 2006 (after a 60-year gap), and the Miners thrived in the same fashion. Wood’s touchdown came at the end of a 15-play, 88-yard drive that lasted nearly seven minutes of the second half.
That march really was Bingham’s only snapshot of offensive dominance in this game, but it was sufficient. Label the drive vintage Bingham football, and it was impressive, with running back Amoni Kaili biting off chunks of yardage. “You win with the O-line, the D-line … stopping the run and being able to run,” said Miners coach John Lambourne, who claimed a second consecutive championship. “East does that same type of stuff extremely well.”
That’s true. The Leopards actually did it better in a lot of ways. East made the Miners earn their latest title. These schools first met in 1927, according to historian George Felt, and here they were 90 years later. What’s changed? While the mining and farming families of the 1940s were supplying Bingham’s championship teams, this title game was a celebration of the Polynesian influence in Utah football.
Friday’s leading rushers were East’s Sione Molisi and Bingham’s Kaili. The top tacklers were Bingham’s Leka Ataata, Jakobi Matagi, Simote Pepa and Timote Tafuna and East’s Unaloto Pututau. Bingham’s offensive line was powered by Tevia Angilau and Amanaki Angilau.
East posted 277 total yards to Bingham’s 181, and the Leopards’ defense held Braedon Wissler to 14 yards on nine carries — three months after Wissler ran for 181 yards in Bingham’s 48-17 victory in South Jordan. The Leopards hardly were overwhelmed Friday.
The Miners were more resourceful, though. Thanks to Wissler’s 74-yard kickoff return and a defensive stand that forced a short punt, Bingham had to drive only 25 and 35 yards for Wissler’s two touchdowns and a 14-7 halftime lead. Lolani Langi’s 47-yard fumble return in the third quarter and Wood’s sneak gave the Miners a 27-7 advantage that was more than enough.
East moved the ball more consistently than Bingham, but a fourth-down stop by Langi and Tafuna, a drive-ending sack by Ataata and a clinching interception by Dax Milne kept East from topping 14 points.
Even so, the Leopards showed how much they had improved since August and established themselves as contenders for years to come in 6A, having joined the state’s largest classification. “Now we’ll have to worry about ’em,” Lambourne said.
That’s a healthy development. As of Friday, East’s move to 6A ended one prep football dynasty and validated another, with this rivalry just beginning.