Matt Gade, Deseret News
Peck is using last week’s struggles against Alta to get his players refocused for a deep playoff run and perhaps an eighth state title in school history.
Lopati, meanwhile, is telling his players what a unique opportunity they have to play the No. 1 team in the state in the playoffs and to take the field with confidence for this Friday’s 5A first-round game.
Regardless of the motivation tactics, everyone knows this matchup is a gigantic mismatch.
Bingham is 10-0 and ranked in the top 100 nationally, while West has a losing record and didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final game of the regular season.
None of that matters to Lopati.
“As long as we do what we’ve been doing for the past two or three weeks, I think that gives us a chance, and that’s all we ask for, a chance,” said Lopati.
The coach is referencing the Panthers’ two-game winning streak to end the regular season. After opening region play with losses to Hillcrest, Hunter and Cottonwood, a playoff berth seemed like an impossible task. Back-to-back wins over Granger and Taylorsville, however, helped West sneak in on the final day.
“We’ve got our big boys up in the front who’ve done a great job and have figured out the schemes we’re running and how it needs to be executed,” said Lopati.
Peck was very complimentary of the duo after watching film this week, saying they’re athletic enough to play for just about any team in the state.
Nonetheless, duplicating last week’s success against Bingham will be extremely difficult — if not impossible.
In earlier meetings this year against stout running backs, Bingham’s defense limited Herriman’s Brandon Farmer to 85 yards, Brighton’s Osa Masina to 53 yards and Jordan’s Clay Moss to 84 yards.
“Defensively they’ve got their front seven that are lights. They’re fundamentally sound and they get after it,” said Lopati.
West probably shouldn’t expect Bingham to be looking ahead to the quarterfinals either. The Miners approached last week’s game at Alta with a laissez-faire attitude and quickly found themselves trailing 27-10 at the half. They dominated the second half with 23 unanswered points, but that only partially erased the hellacious first half.
“First of all, it was a major wake-up call that we can’t just show up,” said Peck. “Hopefully in a game like that we learned some lessons. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’ve got to be prepared to come out and play our game.”
Bingham’s offense ranked third in 5A, averaging 40.6 points, and can beat teams in a variety of ways.
On the ground, Scott Nichols is a deceptively powerful runner who’s surpassed 1,200 yards and tallied 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Kyle Gearig has completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,258 yards and 21 touchdowns, most of which have gone to stud tight end Dalton Schultz and speedy receiver Landen Measom.
If Bingham’s weapons are on their game, West’s appearance in the playoffs will be a brief one.
West statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 17.6 ppg (20th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 20.4 ppg (10th in 5A)