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Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Bingham's Jake Cragun celebrates his touchdown with Noah Sewell against Orem in Orem on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018.

OREM — The catalyst to Bingham’s decade-long dominance has been its defense, and in Thursday’s hyped season opener that was no different.

In a battle of defending state champions, Bingham’s defense was terrific nearly the entire night as it recorded seven sacks and three interceptions en route to a 39-22 victory as it spoiled the home opener for defending 4A state champion Orem.

“We practiced for it, we were ready for it, just felt like we came out and did our thing. Balled out and got the win,” said Bingham defensive lineman Simote Pepa, who recorded two sacks. “It was the D-line and the secondary working together. It’s not just one side of the ball doing their thing. DBs were giving us time to get the sack, and we were pass-rushing the QB and making him throw picks.”

With all but one new starter offensively, Bingham’s running game struggled with consistency most of the night, but with a chance to win the game late the vaunted Miners rushing attack delivered.

Clinging to a 25-22 after getting back-to-back defensive stops, Bingham pushed the lead to a two-score game as Andrew Wimmer ripped off a 46-yard TD run with 4:48 remaining to make it a 32-22 cushion.

For Week 1 there were a lot of good things going on out there, and there’s still a lot of places to improve.
Bingham coach John Lambourne

He finished the game with 21 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns as he carried the load in the second half after starting tailback Braedon Wissler went down with a knee injury.

On Orem’s ensuing drive Porter Hawkins snagged Bingham’s third interception of the game, and on the very next play, Raymond Lewis raced around the edge 35 yards for a touchdown to put the game out of reach up 39-22 with 3:43 remaining.

“For Week 1 there were a lot of good things going on out there, and there’s still a lot of places to improve,” said Bingham coach John Lambourne. “This team has the potential to be really good, but potential is one thing and doing it is another, so we’ll see how our guys respond after a win.”

With Bingham’s running game struggling a bit in the first half, new QB Peyton Jones thrived as he engineered three scoring drives that he capped with TD passes giving Bingham the 18-7 halftime lead.

He finished the first half with 171 passing yards as he connected with Wissler, Avi Parikh and Jake Cragun on TD strikes. The strike to Cragun came with 4.3 seconds left in the half.

Bingham carried the momentum into the third quarter with a 12-play drive that ate up nearly six minutes as Wimmer capped it with a five-yard run pushing the led to 25-7.

Orem answered very quickly though as Cooper Legas hit Puka Nacua on an 80-yard wide receiver screen whittling the deficit to 25-14. The same two connected on a 32-yard pass in the first half as well as Nacua finished with 165 yards receiving.

Orem’s defense answered with a big defensive stop, and the offensive then marched right downfield again as newcomer Noah Sewell leaped over a Bingham defender at the goal line for the 4-yard TD run making it a 25-22 game after the two-point conversion on the final play of the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter though, Bingham’s defense shut things down. It held Orem to six yards of total offense on its first three drives in the fourth quarter with two interceptions and a sack.

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It looked every bit the part of a defense that led the state last year by allowing just 10.1 ppg.

Lambourne was really proud of the way his team responded to the difficult season opener.

“There’s a lot of pressure on us and we thrive on it and we like it. It makes it more fun,” said Lambourne. “We weren’t the sharpest team today, but that’s a very good football team.”

For top-ranked Bingham, Week 2 gets even more difficult as it travels to second-ranked East in a rematch of last year’s 6A state championship game.