Bingham out to reverse fortunes against Maryland state champ

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Quarterback Ryan Wood of Bingham pushes past the Herriman defense in their class 6A semifinal game at Rice-Eccles Stadium, Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.

There aren’t many accolades Bingham High School football hasn’t already claimed. So the chance to achieve something no Miners team has before is motivating this year’s squad leading into the GEICO State Champions Bowl Series this weekend.

The Miners will get their third try at a Champions Bowl victory Saturday in Phoenix. They were one of four state championship teams selected from around the country for the event, which will be broadcast on ESPNU. Bingham is slated to take on Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy at 4 p.m. That matchup will be followed by a game between Arizona’s Chandler and Miami Northwestern.

“It’s another opportunity for this group of guys to play together again more than anything,” Bingham coach John Lambourne said about his undefeated (13-0) team. “And then if we can build the reputation of Utah high school football by being successful, I think that’s great.”

The participants are selected each year from a pool of state champions in participating high school associations.

No. 5 Bingham, the highest-ranked team in this year’s doubleheader, has lost by just one score in both of its previous trips to the bowl series. The Miners lost in overtime to Florida state champion Booker T. Washington 34-28 in 2014, the Champions Bowl Series’ inaugural year. Bingham fell 33-25 to St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) last year.

“It didn’t go exactly as we planned it to last year,” senior cornerback Tanner Merrill said, “so it feels good that we have another shot at it. It’s almost a Christmas present in itself that we have this opportunity in front of us.”

No. 16 St. Frances, like Bingham, has won back-to-back state championships and enters the bowl undefeated. It is the first team from Maryland to participate in the Champions Bowl Series.

Bingham and St. Frances have exchanged film, Lambourne said, but essentially all the Miners know about their opponent comes from that.

“We’ve just got to play our game,” junior cornerback Marques Hamilton said, “because I feel like when we play our game, we’re one of the best, and no one can compete with us.”

That always has been the strategy for Bingham, a team known for deliberately grinding out wins. It has worked beautifully for the Class 6A champions so far this year.

For Hamilton and many of his teammates, this will be their first time in the nationally televised event, but Lambourne expects that winning a locally televised state final was good preparation.

The stakes were higher in the state tournament. That being said, the Miners won’t be content with another bowl loss.

“There’s really no moral victory in that,” Lambourne said. “We certainly want to go win the game. We’re not going into it casually. It’s not just a perk of a good season.”

BINGHAM VS. ST. FRANCES ACADEMY <br>GEICO State Champions Bowl Series <br>Where • Grand Canyon University, Phoenix <br>When • 4 p.m. MT Saturday <br>TV • ESPNU