SOUTH JORDAN — Sometimes defense really is the best offense.
Northridge certainly found that reality out the hard way against Bingham. The Knights could do little to impede the Miners from repeatedly forcing turnovers and quickly converting those miscues into bunches of points.
By the end of a 54-13 victory for No. 1-ranked Bingham on Friday night, the Miners had forced Northridge quarterback Trent Buckley to toss five interceptions, recovered a pair of fumbles and blocked a punt.
Bingham scored three touchdowns directly off those turnovers. Of the remainder, all but one came as a result of good field position gained from the Knights coughing up the ball.
"Our defense is the best part of us," Miner senior defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga said. "Our front seven is so strong and our defensive backs just back us up on every play. I think our defense is probably one of the best defenses in the state and the nation."
The Miner defense certainly looked world class in dashing whatever upset hopes Northridge had.
Initially, the Knights seemed primed to give Bingham a battle. Northridge seized momentum after Austin Tate recovered a fumble by Harvey Langi on the game's second play. The Knights mounted a solid drive and took a 7-0 lead when Buckley scored on a keeper from a yard out on fourth down.
Northridge then recovered an onside kick and drove back down to the Miner 20-yard line. The entire Bingham sideline seemed stunned at the thought the Knights were even in a position to take a two-touchdown lead.
"In all aspects of the game, I thought Northridge came out and got after us and played some great ball," Miners coach Dave Peck said.
Everything soon unraveled for the Knights.
Their second drive ended when Jared Afalava picked off Buckley at the Miner 14. It set up a 65-yard touchdown run by Langi moments later that made it 7-7.
Northridge's next drive turned out even worse when a lineman hit Buckley as he threw and Tausinga settled under the wounded duck pass. The senior rumbled 31 yards into the end zone and made it 14-7 with 1:53 left in the first quarter.
"I had belief in my team that we would put it together and just work it out somehow," Afalava said.
Jacob Bright blocked a punt to set up Bingham's next touchdown — a one-yard run by Stefan Cantwell — early in the second quarter. Then, after Ty Ogden snagged a tipped pass from Buckley at the Northridge 34, Cantwell found Brady Measom for a 34-yard strike to make it 28-7.
A bad snap on another punt tacked on a safety to make it 30-7 at halftime.
Things did not improve for Northridge in the third quarter. In a span of 16 seconds, Afalava returned another interception 33 yards for a touchdown and Tausinga picked up a fumble at the Knights' 2-yard line and took it in for another score.
Just like that Bingham had a 44-7 lead with 10:13 remaining and left Northridge stunned at how thoroughly the Miner defense had taken over the game.
Peck felt that he witnessed one of the best performances the Miners have had on defense all season. He thought once Bingham created its first turnover, it had a snowball effect in building momentum for the entire team.19 comments on this story
"I thought from that point on, our defense just played with energy," Peck said. "We flew around. I thought we mixed it up well on them and kept them off balance."
Defensive brilliance helped Bingham overcome a mediocre outing on offense.
The Miners generated just 246 yards total offense and committed three turnovers. Langi was the top performer on that side of the ball with 129 yards and a touchdown on just nine carries.