You can't do those type of things against a team like Bingham. But overall they were just the better team today. They played better than we did. That's the bottom line. —East head coach Brandon Matich
SALT LAKE CITY — Bingham usually makes you pay for making even the slightest mistakes and it did so again in Friday's 27-14 win over East in the 6A championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Leopards led most statistical categories, but the Miners still took home the title trophy.
Bingham limited turnovers while taking advantage of East's miscues on offense and special teams.
The Leopards' early special teams mistake completely changed the tenure of the game.
East jumped on top 7-0 midway through the first quarter after holding the Miners to consecutive three-and-outs and subsequently dominating the field-position battle.
Suddenly, Bingham's Braedon Wissler found an opening and scampered down the sideline for a 74-yard kick return, setting the Miners up on East's 25-yard line. Three plays later Wissler scored on a 5-yard run to make it 7-7.
"Little tiny mistakes can make all the difference in a big game, and we made too many of them," said East coach Brandon Matich.
Bingham parlayed the momentum into a 14-7 lead at the half, despite accumulating only 75 yards of total offense and failing to convert any of its four third-down attempts.
The Leopards took the second-half kickoff and appeared poised to take back control before a forced fumble was returned 47 yards for a touchdown by Bingham linebacker Lolani Langi, making for a significant two-score deficit at 21-7.
"You can't do those type of things against a team like Bingham," Matich said. "But overall they were just the better team today. They played better than we did. That's the bottom line."
East outgained Bingham 277 yards to 181 and had three turnovers to Bingham's two, although the Leopards' miscues were far more devastating.
Despite the loss East certainly proved it can compete with the very best, not just on Friday but throughout an otherwise dominating season playing in 6A classification. The run proved more bitter than sweet for Matich on Friday, although he did take time to reflect on his team and the accomplishments.
"I'm very proud of these guys and this is a special group to me," Matich said. "Most of these seniors have been starting since they were freshmen and sophomores and I'm very close to this group. It's a hard group to say goodbye to."