SALT LAKE CITY — Bingham High’s “Revenge Tour” is complete, and it turned out to be a tremendous success.
So successful, in fact, that this year’s team has earned its rightful place among “Miner Royalty” — that special, lofty realm where only the school’s state championship squads reside.
Trailing 10-0 in the second quarter, Bingham got a huge, momentum-shifting touchdown pass from Matt Degn to Brayden Cosper just before halftime of Friday’s 5A state championship game against Lone Peak, which had knocked off the Miners in last year’s semifinals — prompting this year’s determined “Revenge Tour” that would not be denied.
Then versatile Daniel Loua scored the go-ahead TD late in the third quarter, and gigantic fourth-quarter interceptions by Tongi Langi and Cole Moody helped seal a gritty 17-10 victory over the Knights in their tense title showdown at the University of Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I’m crying, I’m happy, I’m smiling, I’m just so happy right now, you have no idea,” said senior defensive end Tevita Tuifua with a huge smile on his face. “… This just feels good.
“The ‘Revenge Tour,’ you know it’s real, man. We completed that tour, man, and it feels good.
“Miner Royalty, baby. Ohhh, my name’s gonna be in the hall for years!” Tuifua joyously said.
For Bingham (14-0), it was the 10th state title in school history, the sixth since 2006 and its fifth championship since 2009.
“I’m just happy to help my team out wherever I can,” said Loua, a senior running back/safety who put his team ahead 14-10 with 1:12 to go in the third quarter when he bounced off a couple of Lone Peak defenders and scooted into the end zone from 8 yards away.
That critical scoring drive was set up when that man Loua picked off a Lone Peak pass and returned it to the Knights’ 40.
“Revenge feels awesome, man, it really does,” said Loua. “Last year, I felt bad for my seniors, and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to us. I didn’t want anybody else crying off the field.”
Oh, they still were, but this time they were tears of joy for the Miners, whose defense managed to shut out Lone Peak in the second half — no small feat against a high-scoring Knights squad which had piled up 51, 59 and 66 points (an average of nearly 59 per game) in its three playoff victories over the previous three weeks.
Early on, it looked like Lone Peak might keep things rolling, as Dakota Hansen zipped a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler MacPherson late in the first quarter, and Thomas Rossi extended the Knights’ lead to 10-0 with a 35-yard field goal with 10:51 left in the second period.
Now, finding itself in an uncharacteristic 10-point hole, Bingham’s next drive ended with a missed field-goal attempt, and its next possession ended with a fumble at the Lone Peak 34 before the Miners got the ball back again with just 56 seconds remaining in the half.
Degn quickly connected with Dax Milne on a 38-yard pass play, then lofted a 22-yard scoring strike to Cosper with just 30 seconds left in the half to put Bingham on the scoreboard, making it 10-7 and giving the Miners a gigantic emotional lift.
“We swung the momentum; it got us going at the half and feeling good about the game, and we were able to come out in the second half and do our job.
“Coach is always preaching to keep battling, and it’s not over ’til it’s over, and that’s what we did,” Degn said.
“It looked bleak for us the majority of the game,” said Bingham’s second-year head coach John Lambourne, who served as the Miners’ offensive coordinator for those previous five state titles. “What really got us back in the game was those two big pass plays. Dax Milne got himself open and Matt Degn put it on the money, and then the other one on the other side, where Brayden Cosper had even a better catch and a better throw (by Degn).
“And it came at an opportune time. Going down two scores to them at halftime against a great team would’ve been a problem.
“You know what? It took a lot of courage on the part of our kids,” he said proudly. “They didn’t panic, they kept working. And I’ve gotta credit our assistant coaches for having a lot of composure on that sideline amongst a lot of guys that have been doing it for a long time. I think that helped us.”
Loua’s interception got Bingham back in business again late in the third quarter, and the play of Degn, Amoni Kaili and Cosper pushed the Miners to the Lone Peak 8. Loua then took it into the end zone from there to make it 14-10.
Then with Hansen and the Knights driving for a potential go-ahead score, Langi picked off Hansen’s pass near his own goal line and returned it all the way to the Lone Peak 37.
“My coaches, they put me in the right position where I was supposed to be, and I was there and it just happened,” Langi said of his crucial interception. “It was something else, and I love it.
“I love my team and we’re state champs! Miner Dynasty, and it’s a privilege to play at Bingham.”
After Langi’s critical play, a disputed pass interference penalty on third-and-11 kept Bingham’s drive alive, and Kade Lever’s 27-yard field goal extended the Miners’ lead to 17-10 with 1:06 remaining in the game.
Then with Lone Peak desperately trying to put together a last-gasp drive, Moody’s interception and return to the Knights’ 27 sealed the deal.
“That’s a big deal, that’s a legacy right there,” Degn said. “We’re Royalty — that’s what matters.”
Coach Lambourne credited his defensive coordinator, Karl Cloward, for coming up with a terrific game plan that helped shut down Lone Peak in the second half, as Tanner Merrill, Brigham Tuatagaloa, Lolani Langi, Jayleen Tufele, Loua, Moody, Langi and Tuifua took turns coming up with big plays.
“Bottom line is, it took two picks to win the game — that’s what happened,” Lambourne said.
“It’s a thrill (to win as a head coach), but at the same time there’s a whole bunch of guys over there that are part of a tremendous building process. (Former Bingham head) Coach (Dave) Peck, who’s no longer with us — I mean he’s no longer coaching — he and I came together here in 2000, and things just built and built and built from there.