It’s huge, it means everything. These guys are my brothers. We just wanted to show what we could do, and honor what the people before us have done. We did it. —Bingham RB Braedon Wissler
SALT LAKE CITY — When Bingham defensive back Dax Milne intercepted East quarterback Nick Harris with just under a minute remaining in Friday afternoon’s 6A title game between the Miners and the Leopards he collapsed on the turf at Rice-Eccles field out of sheer joy.
The reason? He had ensured Bingham the state championship.
A few seconds and a kneel by Bingham quarterback Ryan Wood later it was official, the Miners had defeated the Leopards 27-14 for their second straight title and the first ever 6A football title.
The Miners were led by their power rushing attack, per the usual for the powerhouse program.
Braedon Wissler and Amoni Kaili combined to rush for 77 yards and two touchdowns, while Wood chipped nine yards and a score. Wood also completed 4-of-5 passes for 99 yards.
Wissler contributed on special teams as well, reeling off a monster 74-yard kickoff return that led to a Miners touchdown.
Defensively the Miners were paced by their dominant front seven. Linebacker Leka Ataata led the way with 14 tackles and sack, Jakobi Matagi and Simote Pepa added 9 tackles apiece and defensive end Lolani Langi returned a fumble for a touchdown.
It all combined together to lift the Miners to yet another title, their fourth in five years.
And yet, as far as Bingham head coach John Lambourne was concerned this was the only championship that mattered.
“I didn’t even think about (repeating as champions),” said Lambourne. “I just thought about getting this one and what that means and what it means to a whole bunch of these kids. It’s always been that way for us, for our senior classes especially. I’m really happy for all our guys.”
“It was a good solid win over a solid team,” Lambourne added. “(East) is good and I feel really good about the win. I respect what they’ve been able to do, but we proved ourselves today.”
“This is so big,” add Langi. “This whole week we talked about getting our respect. East is great, but we just had to hold our own and show we are still the men of the house.”
At the outset, it was the Leopards that seemed the better team thanks to an early touchdown by quarterback Brandon Wood. The East defense held its own as well, forcing the Miners to punt on each of their first two possessions.
It was on their third possession that the Miners began to take over. Wissler kicked it off with his return.
“I just saw a big ‘ol hole with some blockers and took it,” said the shifty running back. “It was a pretty big (play) and so much fun.”
The return gifted the Miners excellent field position and Wissler himself capitalized with an eight-yard score.
Wissler added his second touchdown in the second quarter when he scampered five yards into the end zone.
The Miners took a seven-point lead into the half and it didn’t take long after the break for them to strike again.
At the midpoint of the third quarter, Bingham linebacker Malachi Fotu hit the Leopards star running back Sione Molisi, jarring the ball loose. Langi deftly snatched the ball off the turf and ran untouched 47 yards into the end zone.
“I’m just proud of (Malachi) for getting there before me,” said Langi. “Right when I saw the ball, I picked it up and took it to the house.”
“I was surprised,” he added. “Right when I picked up the ball everyone stopped (playing), and I kind of thought the play was dead but I just took it anyway, just in case. You never know.”
“All I saw was that long hair going that way. It was unbelievable,” added Lambourne.
The Miners added one final touchdown, thanks to Wood’s 5-yard rush in the fourth quarter, stretching the lead to an insurmountable three scores.
East scored one final touchdown, closing within 13 points, but it was too little too late.
The title was Bingham’s.
“It’s huge, it means everything,” Wissler said of winning the title. “These guys are my brothers. We just wanted to show what we could do, and honor what the people before us have done. We did it.”