SALT LAKE CITY — Thursday's 5A state semifinals feature perennial prep football powerhouse Bingham going against a relatively new Syracuse program buoyed by a deep run in last year's playoffs and an undefeated regular season this year.
The Titans served notice to the state that they were poised to be a perennial contender after upsetting Alta in the first round of the 2011 playoffs. They went on to reach the semifinals a year ago, only to lose in overtime to Region 1 rival Fremont. This year, the Titans advanced to the semifinals after beating Alta again 31-24.
"Syracuse is a very well-coached team that has some of the quickest players we'll have faced all year," observed Bingham coach Dave Peck. "They have a very good system they run on both sides of the ball and guys that can beat you on any play."
Unfortunately for Syracuse (11-0), it will be without starting quarterback Brock Anderson, who tore his Achilles in the fourth quarter of last week's game against Alta.
"By all accounts, he was a great kid and you hate to see any kid go out like that," said Peck. "It's a tough loss for them, but in systems that are as good as the one Syracuse runs, you can often plug in a guy and not miss a beat, so we have to be ready for anything."
The Titans will have their work cut out for them, facing a 10-2 Bingham team that is looking a lot like some of the championship teams Peck has coached over the years. The Miners have proven dominant down the stretch and advanced to the semis after a lopsided 38-0 win over Fremont.
Bingham, as always, presents big and very physical players on both sides of the ball and will enjoy a considerable size advantage.
"They average about 250 pounds while we probably average 200 pounds, so that's going to be tough," said Syracuse coach Russ Jones. "They're not only big, but very well-coached in their technique, so we're going to have to play a great game to beat them and we certainly can't make big mistakes."
Bingham has found its stride on offense, but it's on the defensive side of the ball where Peck sees the biggest improvements.
"I think this is one of the three best defensive units I've coached here at Bingham," said Peck, who has sent many of his players to the next level. "Lowell Lotulelei is as good as any defensive tackle I've coached, and we have two very good linebackers in Durrant Miles and Drake Miller, and I really like our secondary. We have a lot of experienced guys there and I really like how we're playing there."
Peck believes his team is peaking at exactly the right time and is confident going against a very good Syracuse team.
"We simply have to win the turnover battle — that's the key in most games, but I think it's even more important in this one," said Peck. "Syracuse has so many players that can beat you and they're so well-coached that we can't give them anything. If we stay away from mistakes and win the turnover battle, then we should win."
For Jones, he believes he needs a strong effort from every position group.
"We're going to have to play our best game to beat a team like Bingham and we need everyone to perform," the Syracuse coach said. "We need our best execution on offense, defense and on special teams, and we can't be intimidated and I don't think we will be. These are great kids who know what needs to be done without me telling them."
Bingham vs. Syracuse kicks off at 11 a.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium, with the winner taking on the winner of the Jordan-Lone Peak in next week's 5A championship.
8/17 … Syracuse 38, Desert Hills 13
8/24 … Syracuse 30, Skyline 0
8/31 … Syracuse 23, Riverton 0
9/7 … Syracuse 31, Box Elder 14
9/14 … Syracuse 28, Davis 14
9/21 … Syracuse 31, Layton 0
9/28 … Syracuse 21, Northridge 14
10/5 … Syracuse 46, Fremont 8
10/12 … Syracuse 31, Weber 7
10/26 … Syracuse 54, Viewmont 0
11/2 … Syracuse 31, Alta 24
8/17 … Bingham 28, West Jordan 0
8/24 … Alta 17, Bingham 16
8/31 … Bingham 21, Valor Christian, Colo. 20
9/7 … Bingham 44, Layton 14
9/14 … Bingham 34, Cottonwood 14
9/21 … Bingham 42, Riverton 16
9/27 … Lone Peak 21, Bingham 17
10/5 … Bingham 33, American Fork 0
10/10 … Bingham 49, Lehi 0
10/17 … Bingham 49, Pleasant Grove 14
10/26 … Bingham 52, Cottonwood 13
11/2 … Bingham 38, Fremont 0
Syracuse coach Russ Jones: Only head coach in 6-year history of the school. He's guided Titans to a 43-24 record during that stretch, including semifinals three times.
Bingham coach Dave Peck: This is his 13th season at Bingham, and he's guided the program to a 128-34 record, including state titles in 2006, 2009 and 2010.
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