We’re definitely going to take advantage of the home field. They fought hard to get that and that was one of our goals at the start of the season. —Ryan Bullet, Brighton head football coach
COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — It’s been awhile since Brighton tasted the quarterfinals.
The Bengals have lost four straight first-round games and haven’t advanced to the next round since 2005 when they eventually lost to Skyline in the state championship. Yet, all of those losses were on the road. On Friday at 5 p.m., the Bengals (9-1) host an opening round game for the first time since 2004 against Cottonwood (5-4).
“We’ve always played in the toughest region,” said Brighton coach Ryan Bullet, whose team lost the coin-flip in 2005 and was awarded the third seed. “The league we were in last year — Alta and Jordan were contenders. Now they throw Bingham in with our league. We’ve usually had very low seeds. We’ve always been going to play a one-seed at their place. In 2009, we beat three of the four state semifinal teams, but we couldn’t get to the playoffs in our own league.”
The Bengals have won 11 straight home games dating back to September 2011, including 6-0 this season.
“Our kids know how important it was to get a home game,” Bullet said. “We’re definitely going to take advantage of the home field. They fought hard to get that and that was one of our goals at the start of the season.”
Intertwined within those six games was a 31-3 thumping against the Colts.
“We did a good job running the ball; we didn’t throw the ball like we would have liked to the first time (playing),” Bullet said of the first meeting. “After the game, the things that we took away, I thought they were really physical. I knew they had a good football and were going to win a lot of games.”
Since the Sept. 13 meeting, Cottonwood garnished a 4-2 record with two close losses down the stretch in Region 2 play.
“They're more aggressive it looks like to me, just watching their last two games,” Bullet said. “They're throwing the ball better, and we went back and watched our film with them, and they’ve just gotten better as the year has gone on. You can see that on film.”
Cottonwood’s T.J. Fehoko set the single-season state sack record (32) after finding the quarterback 7.5 times against Hillcrest in the final week of the season. He’s been a menace for every opponent to contain, but Brighton minimized his production.
“They moved him to linebacker for some of our game. They were blitzing him every play. He still played a little bit of end on the other side, but played linebacker,” Bullet said. “We run our offensive scheme — our goal is to protect our quarterback. Just by our scheme itself, we’ve gone all games and said, ‘Hey our quarterback didn’t get hit.’ So, we’re not really letting other teams hit our quarterback.
“I think that maybe had something to do with it, but that kid’s the real deal. He’s got one gear — he goes full-speed every play. I can see why he has so many sacks.”
Cottonwood statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 21.2 ppg (16th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 16.4 ppg (6th in 5A)
Passing leader: Not provided
Rushing leaders: Not provided
Receiving leaders: Not provided
Tackles leaders: S.J. Fehoko (100 tackles), T.J. Fehoko (77 tackles)
Sack leaders: T.J. Fehoko (32 sacks)
Interception leaders: Aleni Aiono, Howard Pututau (2 INTs)
Brighton statistical breakdown
(Note: Does not include individual stats from Week 10)
Scoring offense: 41.8 ppg (1st in 5A)
Scoring defense: 14.8 ppg (3rd in 5A)
Passing leader: Robbie Hutchins (51-97, 52.6%, 936 yards, 10 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Osa Masina (135 carries, 1,050 yards, 20 TDs), Josh Thompson (73 carries, 287 yards, 11 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Isaiah Kaufusi (20 catches, 415 yards, 5 TDs), Simi Fehoko (11 catches, 258 yards, 1 TD)
Tackles leaders: Sage Nelson (80 tackles), Isaiah Kaufusi (61 tackles)
Sack leaders: Mufi Hunt (6 sacks), Sage Nelson (5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Simi Fehoko (6 INTs), Sage Nelson (3 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for Cottonwood High School
All-time record: 179-264-3 (44 years)
Region championships: 6 (1984, 2005 co, 2007 co, 2008, 2009 co, 2010)
Playoff appearances: 23
All-time playoff record: 16-22
State championships: 0
State championship record:0-2
Felt’s Factoid(s): Cottonwood combined with West Jordan for 1,216 total yards and set the single-game record for two teams (Sept. 30, 2011).
Felt’s Facts for Brighton High School
All-time record: 312-170-2 (45 years)
Region championships: 16 (1977 co, 1978, 1979, 1981 co, 1982, 1986, 1988 co, 1992, 1995 co, 1996 co, 1997, 2000 co, 2001, 2002 co, 2004, 2005 co)
Playoff appearances: 34
All-time playoff record: 35-32
State championships: 1 (1982)
State championship record: 1-3
Felt’s Factoid(s): Brighton didn’t have a losing season for 29 straight years — from 1977-2005 — the second longest such streak in state history and longest since 1970. The Bengals enjoyed five undefeated regular seasons during the streak.