Keith Johnson, Deseret News
Hunter (7-3) at Bingham (9-0)
5A state tournament first round
Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Parry's Power Guide: Bingham by 37
All-time series: Bingham leads, 10-7
Coach vs. Coach: Bingham's Dave Peck leads Hunter's Dustin Pearce, 1-0
Last meeting: Oct. 15, 2008 — Bingham 41, Hunter 7
The news could have been devastating for most teams.
When the Hunter Wolverines learned they drew the short end of the card stack and were awarded Region 2's fourth seed after tying Skyline and West for second place, they knew what stood in front of them. They would have to beat Region 1's fifth-place team to reach the first round of the playoffs, and then waiting to play them a few days later would be top-ranked Bingham.
After taking care of Layton on Tuesday, Hunter will play at Bingham on Saturday — and the Wolverines are happy about it.
"I told my guys the situation we were in — having the play-in game — and their faces lit up," said Hunter coach Dustin Pearce. "They're excited to go there and have the chance to play the best team in the state. I think we can line up with anybody and play with anybody."
His players feel the same way.
"I've been waiting for this," Hunter running back Leva Bloomfield said shortly after catching the game-winning 76-yard touchdown pass against Layton. "I have a lot of cousins at Bingham. I've been wanting to play those guys and see what they got."
Pearce and his players aren't looking to provide the Miners will any bulletin-board material. They're just looking forward to the challenge of playing a team that's ranked No. 4 in the nation by USA Today and scores an average of 52 points per game.
"The bottom line is you always want to line up and play the best team," Pearce said. "They have the best record in the state, the best numbers."
Hunter came out flat in its win over Layton on Tuesday, but that won't be a concern against the Miners. The Bingham-Hunter game will be among the hardest-hitting contests played in the state this season, and both teams will be prepared for that.
"I think it's going to be a real physical game," said Bingham coach Dave Peck. "We have a lot of respect for them. A lot of the kids know each other."
So do the coaching staffs. Peck and Bingham offensive coordinator John Lambourne coached Pearce at Hunter, and Peck sees similarities with how Pearce played and how his team plays.
"Dustin was a very intense, hard-nosed guy that got after you," Peck said. "He was a leader on the team."
The two teams run similar offenses and defenses. Both teams are primarily running teams that set up play action. Their blocking schemes are different, but they both want to pound the ball until the opposing defense proves it can stop it.
Leading the way for Hunter's run game is Equasi Tavo, who averages a little more than 5 yards per carry. Bloomfield is second in rushing on the team.
Bingham, of course, is led by standout Harvey Langi, who has rushed for 1,043 yards and averages 9.9 yards per carry. Other players such as Inoke Taufalele and Richie Vakapuna can run the ball, too, and quarterback Stefan Cantwell makes plays with his feet and arm.
The two teams haven't played since they were in the same region in 2008. Bingham has defeated Hunter five straight times.
Hunter statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 21.8 ppg
Scoring defense: 12.4 ppg
Passing leader: Peter Fuimaona (36-of-76, 47.4%, 523 yards, 2 TDs)
Rushing leader: Tavo Equasi (132 carries, 688 yards, 8 TDs)
Receiving leader: Mason Hafen (5 receptions, 113 yards, 1 TDs)
Tackles leader: Not provided
Sacks leader: Not provided
Interceptions leader: Not provided
Note: Does not include stats for Hunter's last two games.
Bingham statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 52.1 ppg
Scoring defense: 8.9 ppg
Passing leader: Stefan Cantwell (63-of-103, 61.2%, 1,221 yards, 19 TDs)
Rushing leader: Harvey Langi (105 carries, 1,043 yards, 15 TDs)
Receiving leader: Josh Smith (11 receptions, 228 yards, 6 TDs)
Sacks leader: Moses Kaumatule (4 sacks)
Interceptions leader: Logan Parker (3 interceptions)
Note: Does not include Week 10 stats