COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The Brighton Bengals knew there was a simple key if they were going to beat No. 6-ranked Hunter — stop the run.
The Wolverines ran for nearly 200 yards in their opening win against Kearns, and for over 250 the next week in beating Highland. But they hardly moved against Brighton. The Bengals followed their game plan to perfection, as they held Hunter to only 47 yards on the ground, winning 7-3 in a slugfest.
"Coming into the game, I didn't know if we would be able to stop their running backs," said Brighton coach Ryan Bullett of the Hunter duo of Equasi Tavo and Leva Bloomfield. "They have been running on everyone, and Hunter has been playing very well. I am excited for our kids. I was just excited we competed and played hard."
The Bengals did more than compete. Defensively, the team put in a stellar performance.
"The defense won the game for us tonight," said Bengals tight end Zane Smith.
Nobody saw that type of performance coming after Brighton gave up nearly 200 yards on the ground to Davis in the season-opener. Nobody, that is, except for perhaps the Bengals themselves.
"We've come a long way since getting our tails kicked the first week," said Bullett. "We've been talking as coaches that we were getting better. We had 11 new starters on defense going into the season, and I am excited for them and how they are coming along.
"We put on the board '11 guys,' " added Bullett of the complete team effort defensively. "We are trying to get some pride, a little tradition going. We want 11 guys going to the football, and we are having a little success doing that."
While the defense had a near-perfect night, the Brighton special teams couldn't have played much worse. From going down on a knee to collect the opening kickoff on its own two-yard line, to having a punt blocked, to missing two field goal attempts, to giving up a couple of long punt and kickoff returns, the third aspect of the game that many forget about was dreadful.
"We had some substitution errors, kids not lining up right, just all kinds of trouble. I don't really understand that," said Bullett. "We were pretty awful, but we will get that fixed."
Offensively, the Bengals didn't have a lot to shout about either — except for one play.
On the opening play of the second period, quarterback Andy Jones found Smith streaking down the left sideline for a 90-yard touchdown bomb.
"As soon as I caught the ball, I started losing my balance, but I recovered and I didn't think I was going to get caught from behind," said Smith.
It was a nice reward for the senior captain.
"Zane has done a lot of hard work for our program the last three years, and I am happy to see him experience a little bit of success because of it," said Bullett.
Brighton moved the ball on a few other occasions, finishing with 244 total yards, but it was simply a night that belonged to the defense.
"Our guys on defense played a great game," said Smith. "They deserve all the credit. Defense is what wins championships."