Orem • The Bingham Miners have churned out a bunch of state championships lately with an offense that methodically takes over games in the fourth quarter.
Bingham opened the 2018 season Thursday night with a decidedly different method of winning. The formula went something like this: Interception, touchdown. Another interception, another touchdown.
That’s how the Class 6A defending champion Miners pulled away to a 39-22 victory over Orem, the reigning 4A state champions.
The Tigers had scored two third-quarter touchdowns to get within 25-22. Orem then used the sound strategy of trying to get the football to star receiver Puka Nacua, who already had caught two touchdown passes, including an 80-yard sprint with a short pass. Bingham’s secondary responded wonderfully — and, in each case, so did the Miners' offense.
Jared Greenfield’s 20-yard interception return led to Andrew Wimmer’s 46-yard touchdown run on Bingham’s first play. Next Orem possession, same story. Porter Hawkins' interception set up Raymond Lewis' 35-yard touchdown run — again, on the first play.
So after the the Miners failed to do anything on their first two drives of the fourth quarter, an offensive line that includes two sophomores and two juniors opened big holes that Wimmer and Lewis exploited on their way to the end zone. Their big runs came after Bingham running back Braedon Wissler was injured late in the first half.
That’s what the Miners needed to beat a team that has to rank in the state’s top three, regardless of classification. Coach John Lambourne’s team, having beaten 28 straight Utah opponents, will visit East next week in another showcase game.
Peyton Jones passed for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as the Miners took an 18-7 lead. Bingham missed two extra-point kicks and failed on a 2-point try.
After a scoreless first quarter, Jones' 42-yard pass to Wimmer led to his 24-yard touchdown toss to Wissler. Orem answered with Puka Nacua’s leaping catch of Cooper Legas' pass in the back corner of the end zone, before Bingham scored twice in the last three minutes of the half.
Jones hit Avi Parikh for a 13-yard touchdown, then his 39-yard completion to Greenfield gave Bingham another scoring chance. Jake Cragun made an 18-yard touchdown reception with four seconds remaining.
August is not an evaluation period for college coaches; otherwise, a bunch of them would have visited Orem to see this display of talent. In late July, after the Tigers' first official practice of the season, coach Jeremy Hill sat in the stands and marveled, “We’ve got some of these kids who will be Sunday players, playing on the field right now. It’s pretty surreal.”
If that’s true, the Miners' visit likely added to the collection of future NFL talent. Simote Pepa and Junior Tafuna were impressive defensively for Bingham. They’re among seven of the top 10 recruits in the state who were on the field Thursday, according to 247Sports.com. And that’s not including Orem’s Noah Sewell, an aggressive linebacker who also played running back and scored the touchdown that made it 25-22. The transfer from Desert Hills High School in St. George is already ranked Utah’s No. 1 player in the class of 2020 by 247Sports.com.