COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — Alta and Brighton have long been considered bitter rivals. While both programs also maintain deep animosity for neighboring schools — Jordan and Hillcrest — the proximity and success of Alta High and Brighton High has created an ongoing distaste toward one another.
In 36 football meetings dating back to 1978, the Bengals hold a marginal 19-17 series advantage. However, an important element — competitiveness — has disappeared in recent years. The Hawks have won three straight and seven of the last eight regular-season meetings, outscoring Brighton 240-91 with three shutouts.
“They’ve definitely had our number,” said Brighton coach Ryan Bullet, whose team hosts Alta at 7 p.m. Friday. “I’ve been here for almost 20 years and we were probably 7-1 against them when we started off. We’re just hoping they don't have the full platoon they’ve had those last years. I think the playing field is a little more even since they don’t stand 100 and whatever kids on the sidelines. That’s a big deal.”
Alta’s rise into power and Brighton’s demise stretches back to an infamous meeting in 2005. That year, Alta shocked heavily favored Brighton, 21-16, after then first-year coach Les Hamilton elected to forgo hearing "Welcome to the Jungle" and had the Hawks arrive only 10 minutes before kickoff. Shortly beforehand, a Brighton administrator cut loose balloons Alta fans had blown up — citing district regulations as the purpose and adding more flame to fire.
Since the controversy, Alta has captured two state championships, five region titles and a 69-18 overall mark, while Brighton has posted a 33-41 record. The hard times have been rough for the proud program, but the Bengals are riding the path of resurgence.
For the second consecutive season Brighton showcases a perfect 5-0 record. In 2012, the unblemished start was put to rest in a 48-31 loss to the Hawks.
“We were not playing bad at all going into that game last year,” Bullet said. “I think once we got into league we were playing better athletes and better teams. I’ve said all week to my kids, ‘We really haven’t accomplished anything yet.’ Now that league starts we’re playing the athletes. Our kids know what’s ahead.”
Bullet described practice this week as “businesslike” and expects a raucous crowd Friday night.
“We always seem to be a little faster, a little bigger and a little tougher when we’re all in blue and we’re playing at home. We tend to get a little more excited in front of the home crowd,” he said. “We’ve been the underdog against them the last several years, and the games we’ve played at home against them where we’ve been big underdogs we’ve actually played really well. Sometimes teams are just better. We played well against them, but haven’t been on the winning end. “
In Alta’s two losses earlier this season, the Hawks were physically dominated at the line of scrimmage. Collectively, East and Timpview outrushed the Hawks 472-11 and recorded nine combined sacks, which bodes well for Brighton. The Bengals have gained 1,215 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground so far this year and have registered 24 sacks.
If the Bengals control the trenches, a 6-0 start for the first time since 2004 could be imminent.