SALT LAKE CITY — The jubilation of the American Fork players and coaches celebrated more than an overtime victory against perennial power Bingham.
It capped a rise from mediocrity, nine years in the making, and it means more than simply a trip to the 6A championship game for the second-ranked team.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said head coach Aaron Behm after the Cavemen defeated region rival and top-ranked Bingham 28-21 in overtime. “We’ve come a long way in nine years, since not having a shot against these guys. Bingham does such a good job year in and year out, and so to finally get them, it means something.”
To the players who earned the stunning victory that featured jaw-dropping offensive plays and some big defensive moments, it was difficult to put it into words.
“They’re a good team,” said senior linebacker Tanner Vickers, who recovered a fumble in the game. “We knew it would be a challenge, but we finally did it. It’s a dream come true, honestly. … It felt like a dream.”
American Fork got the ball first and scored after three plays that ended with a spectacular catch from Devin Downing, who caught the touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone over the shoulder of a defender.
After a holding call forced Bingham into a difficult 19 yards to go on second down, and on fourth-and-9, a pass was intercepted by Jeremiah Shipley.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Downing. “I’m so excited.”
Bingham scored first when quarterback Peyton Jones connected with Josh Woolf at 7:21 in the first quarter. American Fork answered about two minutes later when Boone Abbott scored on a four-yard run to tie the game at 7-7. Bingham scored with 2:11 left in the second quarter, when Avi Parikh caught a 31-yard pass from Jones.
Coach Behm said his defense played better in the second half, while the offense found it’s rhythm thanks to Boone’s fearless ingenuity and the outstanding performance of the team’s receivers, including especially Downing.
Dallin Johnson scored on a four-yard pass from Abbott in the third quarter, and then Abbott would score on a nine-yard run. Bingham scored the game-tying quarterback with 5:20 to play, when Jones connected with Briasen Harward for a 19-yard pass play.
The teams’ defenses forced each other to punt. American Fork kicker Kyle Thompson nearly ended the game in regulation when he attempted a 49-yard field goal with just seconds on the clock, and it was long enough, just a bit too wide.
“I felt really confident,” Behm said. “We just ran out of time there with that long field goal. I felt super confident that our offense would go down and score.”
Behm said he didn’t change what he said to the team throughout the game.
“We just said this game is going to be 150 plays, and we’ve got to play all of them,” he said. “What’s what we said before the game, and at halftime, we said, we have about 70 left. ... We got some bonus plays.”
The Miner defense did a tremendous job against the Cavemen’s leading receiver Chase Roberts, who has committed to play for BYU.
“Chase does a great job distracting everybody, and that allows me to get open,” said Downing, who had two critical catches on different drives, as well as the game-winning touchdown in overtime. “I’m just grateful I was able to make the plays we needed today.”7 comments on this story
Abbott and his teammates said they weren’t nervous about facing Bingham, a team they lost to just a few weeks ago in region play, in Thursday’s semifinal. “It’s unfinished business for us,” he said. “I think (losing) was a good thing for us, honestly. It really put us through some adversity — going to two away playoff games, it made us better.”
He said being forced to win on the road helped them adjust to playing in Rice-Eccles.
“We were hungry,” he said. “We really just wanted to come out and show them how we really play. I don’t think we played to our potential. Last game it came down to a couple of plays. This time it came down to a couple of plays, and this time we executed those.”