High school football: State's top teams both feel like underdogs in battle for 5A title
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The conditions for a great football game don’t get much better than the 5A state championship matchup between second-ranked Brighton and top-ranked Bingham.
While both rosters are loaded with talent, the head coaches said their players feel they need to make statements this Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“We were ranked number one in the state right at the beginning, and yet, we still feel like we’ve been under the radar and everybody keeps thinking, so and so is going to knock us off at any point,” said Bingham head coach Dave Peck. “Our kids feel like they have something to prove.”
It may seem odd that the undefeated Miners feel like underdogs against a team they beat 38-27 in a non-region game on Oct. 4.
But Peck said that’s exactly how they feel.
“We have some humble kids,” Peck said. “Clear back in spring, we were talking about being a program that shows up every single day. We go as hard as we can, we’re going to sell out and play for each other. Then, on Friday nights, that’s just who we are, what we’re about and how we do things.”
Peck said his players also feel that they are overlooked by scouts and, to some degree, the media, when it comes to just how talented they are. Only two of Bingham’s players have scholarship offers, while Brighton junior running back and linebacker Osa Masina is one of the state’s most sought after recruits.
“They want to prove that Scott Nichols is the best running back in the state,” he said. “Well, what’s the best way to do that?”
Peck makes it clear that both he and his players respect Masina’s talent, as well as the Bengal offensive line. They just want to show they have some talent of their own.
“For us, to go out and have the best game we can have, and stop their offense, well, that’s the way to show that our players, you know, they’re pretty darn good too.”
Brighton’s motivation is a little different than Bingham’s in that it lost the first meeting between these two teams.
“The reason we didn’t play good is because they’re good and they made us look bad,” said Brighton head coach Ryan Bullett. “But my kids said afterward, ‘Coach, we can play better football.’ Obviously, I think we’re peaking at the right time.”
While Bingham’s defense held Masina to 53 yards and a single touchdown, Nichols rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns.
“We’re doing some things better,” Bullett said. “Our quarterback (Robbie Hutchins), that was only his second full game, so obviously, he’s playing a lot better. He’s a lot more comfortable and confident."
In that game, Hutchins threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns, but he did throw one interception. But Miners quarterback Kyle Gearig only managed 75 yards against the Bengal defense and one touchdown.
“Obviously, we know who we’re playing, and our kids have played them, and that’s a good thing that we have going for us,” Bullett said. “Even though it wasn’t a positive, we took a lot of positives out of it. We just have to correct some things. We made a lot of mistakes. Hopefully we’ll have a better outcome this time around.” One key, Bullett said, to having more success against the Miners is the Bengals’ ability to throw the football.
“I think we need to do two things,” he said. “We need to throw the ball well, and we need to hold onto the ball. Because of their offense, they’re scoring in the 40s every game. We need to try to keep them off the field. That’s part of our goal, to keep them off the field.” Regardless of the psychology of each coach’s approach, both teams are capable of winning this year’s state title. It could be a low-scoring defensive struggle or a high-scoring shoot-out.
Either way, both Peck and Bullett agree that it will be enjoyable for those involved and those who take the time to watch.
“Just playing for a state championship is a huge motivation,” Peck said. "These kids have worked hard and they've been focused."
And Bullett’s final thought, “You never want to back door anything. You want to play the best team to get that championship. And right now, until someone proves otherwise (Bingham) is the best team. But our kids need to believe and they do believe. ... It should be exciting.”