SALT LAKE CITY — It's only fitting the 5A state championship provided mighty Bingham with one of its toughest tests of the season. Even that game, however, wasn't close.
Just like they have all year, the top-ranked Miners overwhelmed another opponent Friday afternoon at Rice-Eccles Stadium, racing to a four-touchdown, first-half lead against stunned Region 1 champion Fremont.
The rest was business as usual for Bingham, as it captured its second straight state title with a 30-7 victory, extending its school-record winning streak to 24 straight.
"We've been working so hard, with all these distractions and stuff like that, but it paid off," said Bingham linebacker Manoa Pikula. "The scoreboard will tell you how hard we've been working. It's just an amazing feeling right now."
Just like in Bingham's 12 previous wins this year, the outcome was never in doubt. The Miners led 14-0 after the first quarter, 27-0 at the half and 30-0 midway through the third quarter.
Unlike most Bingham foes, however, Fremont kept it respectable, equalling Alta's 23-point loss as Bingham's two closest games of the season.
"I thought Fremont played a great second half. They were gritty, they were gutty, you can see why they won 11 games in a row," said Bingham coach Dave Peck.
In the end, though, it wasn't enough, as Bingham captured its third state title in five years after a 60-yard drought.
"We've been working hard, our games have been tough, but we've battled through and it's great to come out on top," said quarterback Stefan Cantwell, who was again the offensive star for the Miners.
Fremont's defensive game plan from the outset was clearly to stop Harvey Langi. It stacked the box on almost every down, and it paid off early as the Bingham back was held to five total yards on his first five carries.
The Miners responded by doing what any good team would do — air the ball out. With Bingham facing the prospect of back-to-back punts to start the game on a third-and-11, Cantwell completed three straight passes for 81 yards, the last a 48-yard touchdown strike to Brady Measom, to give the Miners a 7-0 lead with 5:25 remaining in the quarter.
On Bingham's next possession Cantwell completed both of his passes for 44 yards, once again connecting with Measom on a 21-yard score to increase the lead to 14-0.
Fremont quickly discovered that Bingham is not one-dimensional.
"It got to a point where if they're going to commit to the run, you have to spread it out. That's why we're so thankful to have Stefan," said Peck. "Everybody looked at him a year ago as a running quarterback, and obviously he could run. But he's a complete quarterback. He's a stud, he's our leader."
On a day when Langi was held in check with 53 yards on 16 carries, Cantwell passed for 226 yards and three TDs.
By the end of the first half, Cantwell scored on a 5-yard run and then connected with Josh Smith on a 14-yard touchdown pass to increase Bingham's lead to 27-0.
Bingham's defense was just as dominant in the first half with three interceptions — and five for the game. Fremont quarterback Aaron Van Woerkom was leveled by a pair of Bingham defenders on the first interception, and was forced to leave the game with a broken jaw.
With its back-up quarterback under center, Fremont played most of the second quarter in a state of shock. After Bingham tacked on a field goal to increase its lead to 30-0 midway through the third quarter, Fremont's offense finally started to settle down.
Nick Vigil capped a 10-play scoring drive with a four-yard TD plunge to whittle Bingham's lead to 30-7 with 2:36 remaining in the quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, 'Wolves kicker Cash Hancock drilled the ball off a Bingham blocker, with his team recovering at midfield.7 comments on this story
Fremont's rejuvenated offense threatened to make it a two-possession game after moving the ball inside Bingham's 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter. But Bingham's Logan Parker broke up a pass on a fourth-down trick play at the goal line.
"I think we came out swinging hard in the first half; second half, we started playing around and my hats off to Fremont — they took advantage and smacked us in the mouth, but luckily our team is strong enough to hold it down," said Pikula.
Bingham's defense tied a state championship record with seven sacks and was two shy of the interception record.