SOUTH JORDAN — Riverton’s coach Mike Miller migrated through the post-game handshakes in pursuit of Bingham’s running back Scott Nichols. He eventually found the 5-foot-10, soft-spoken runner at the back of the line curving around the 20-yard line.
“Hey, No. 30,” Miller yelled as Nichols' attention focused on the opposing coach. “I don’t usually seek players out to shake hands. You have my respect.”
Admiration earned. Nichols rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries as the Miners beat Riverton for the 10th straight time, 43-10, and advanced to the 5A semifinals Friday night.
“Everything that he’s doing right now — he deserves every bit of it,” Bingham coach Dave Peck said in praise of Nichols. “He’d be the first one to say, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about the kids up there blocking.’ That’s just the type of kid he is.
“This week he was named the Region 3 Most Valuable Player, and I think we all know how many talented kids are in Region 3,” Peck continued. “You’re talking (Jordan’s Austin) Kafentzis and (Brighton’s Osa) Masina. I think we hit it right on who the kid is this year.”
As impressive as Nichols’ night turned out, Bingham’s defense earned the gold star. The Miners held Riverton to three points offensively and 158 rushing yards on 41 attempts. The ’Wolves entered Friday’s quarterfinals averaging slightly under 40 points and 423 rushing yards per game.
“We started getting a little more aggressive defensively,” explained Peck when asked what adjustments led to 29 straight points after Riverton had pulled within 14-10 in the second quarter. “There is only one time a year that you play an offense like that. You don’t ever see it again, and it’s totally a different scheme than what you’re used to.”
The Wing-T offense Riverton employs is designed to methodically break down defenses with misdirection, but presents difficulties for mounting comebacks. Bingham began to place the ’Wolves in that predicament on the fourth play from scrimmage when Nichols went untouched 72 yards around the end.
“The offense played great tonight,” Peck said. “They executed and played with that fire.”
Riverton responded with a 30-yard interception by Cayden Jones after a bubble screen was mishandled to even things at 7-7 with 4:21 in the first quarter.
“The ball was a little bit high and the kid was right there, but you didn’t see any panic on the sideline,” Peck said. “You saw a bunch of guys go, ‘OK. Let’s keep doing what we do.’ ”
The Miners recaptured the lead on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Gearig to Colton Livingston. Then, after Riverton’s Brady Slack connected on a 20-yard field goal, Bingham closed out the first half on a 12-play, 79-yard drive that ended with a one-yard scamper by Nichols.
The Miners opened with touchdown drives on their first three possessions of the second half: a 19-yard run by Nichols; a 15-yard run by Gearig; and a two-yard run by Kade Jensen, which was positioned by a shattering crackback block by Mahonrai Toki on Landen Measom’s punt return.
Bingham will play Lone Peak next Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“I think (Lone Peak quarterback) Baron (Gajkowski) is one of — if not the best quarterback in the state,” Peck said. “I love the way he competes and inspires the rest of the players around him to be better than they think they can be. We know we’ll have our work cut out for us, but regardless of what happens I know these kids will show up and play hard. We’ll see what happens.”
Bingham's pregame haka
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