Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Through the years, Bingham-Alta games have typically featured great offense and defense all rolled into one. Saturday night's showdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium had it all, too.
In a bizarre twist from most games in the "Black & Blue" rivalry, the defenses did most of their damage in the first half while the offenses dominated the second half.
After a scoreless first half, Bingham did just enough in a wild second half — most notably make its extra points — as it hung on for the wild 21-18 victory as Kalan Cantwell caught the game-winning touchdown pass from Brady Lail with just 17 seconds remaining.
"Another classic," said Bingham coach Dave Peck
With the victory, Bingham extended the third-longest winning streak in state history to 26 straight, including four straight over Alta.
Saturday's game was the second straight year Alta and Bingham have played their regular-season clash at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Alta first-year coach Bob Stephens said the opportunity to play under the lights in front of 15,000 to 20,000 fans never gets old.
"Absolutely. We love the opportunity. It feels like a playoff game that happens early in the season. It just has a great electric atmosphere," said Stephens.
Fans who stuck it out through the unbearable first half were rewarded with another fantastic finish.
Trailing 18-14 with 2:40 remaining, Bingham patiently marched 55 yards in nine plays, with Cantwell capping it off with a leaping catch near the front corner of the end zone.
"Everybody has talked about Alta, Alta, Alta. I know in some the rankings they put us at No. 1 because of the teams we've had in the past, but we've been telling (our guys) you go prove to everybody that you belong and you are the No. 1 team in the state," said Peck.
Lail finished the game completely 12-of-19 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns.
"I'm just so excited, we haven't beat these guys forever. We came out here ready, fought our heart out," said Lail.
After the first-half stalemate, Bingham finally put an end to the offensive woes for both teams on its first drive of the second half as Daniel Palepoi capped a nine-play, 63-yard drive with a 1-yard scoring run midway through the third quarter.
It didn't take Alta long to respond. Set up with great field position following a strange on-side kick attempt by Bingham, the Hawks scored four plays later as Bryan Engstrom raced 35 yards right up the middle of the field to cut the deficit to 7-6 after the missed extra point.
The one run alone eclipsed all of Alta's total offense in the first half.
Alta was in prime position to build on the momentum, as three straight penalties on the Miners' ensuing drive put them in a third and 34 situation at their own 15-yard line. Instead, Bingham's Lail connected with Hayden Weichers on an 85-yard touchdown strike up the left sideline to extend the lead to 14-6 on the last play of the quarter.
Most of the fourth quarter belonged to Alta.
The Hawks cut the deficit to 14-12 with 8:28 remaining on Engstrom's four-yard TD run, but their two-point conversion attempt was intercepted in the end zone. Alta has had a habit of botching conversions against Bingham at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and it proved costly again this year.
Less than two minutes later, Alta took the lead as defensive lineman Ryan Jensen drilled Lail in the backfield for Alta's seventh sack of the game. The hit jarred the ball loose, and Steven Miller was Jonny on the Spot, scooping up his second fumble recovery of the game and racing 10 yards for the go-ahead score — even though Alta missed another two-point conversion attempt.
The first half was a half to forget for Alta, which ran just 16 offensive plays compared to 34 for Bingham.
Despite dominating the time of possession, several costly penalties and Alta's fierce pass rush kept the Miners off the scoreboard as Lail was sacked six times alone in the first half.
The passing game troubles overshadowed a great first half from Palepoi, who rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries. He took a helmet to a knee late in the first half though, and he wasn't nearly as effective after the hit with just 30 more yards on 14 carries. He finished with 28 carries at 110 yards.
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