SALT LAKE CITY — Moments after American Fork’s football team pulled off a Miner upset, the Cavemen kneeled together in the southwest corner of Rice-Eccles Stadium for a quick team chat.
Quarterback Boone Abbott flashed a W, presumably to celebrate the win — a 28-21 overtime thriller against second-ranked Bingham in the 6A semifinals. Coaches and other players of the state's No. 4 team also hooted and hollered as plays and friendly bets were enthusiastically brought up.
And linebacker Brock Hughes riled up his finals-bound teammates by loudly and proudly reminding them of a promise he’d made an hour or so earlier.
“I told you all we’re a second-half team!” the senior shouted to cheers. “That’s how you finish a game!”
Bingham looked like it might be ready to finish the game late in the first half after forcing the Cavemen to turn the ball over on downs and quickly moving into A.F. territory 39 seconds before halftime.
Connor Gibb foiled the Miners’ late drive, however, helping American Fork enter the locker room down 14-7 instead of perhaps by 10 or 14 by snaring his second interception of the game.
Though trailing at halftime is not something A.F. has experienced often this season — they were either tied or ahead by one in their two losses — the 11-2 Cavemen weren’t overwhelmed.
Instead, they were fired up.
The only other time they were behind at the half this season was still fresh on their minds. It happened last week in the quarterfinals after Weber held a 24-17 lead following the first two quarters.
A.F. exploded in the second half against the Warriors, particularly in a 21-7 fourth quarter, and cruised into the semis with a 45-31 victory.
That scenario was a hot topic of conversation at the midway break of Thursday’s early game. It's not one they've had enough considering their average point differential against opponents has been plus-20.4 and they've averaged leads of 13.9 points after the first half.
“We just came in and we talked about the challenge and loving the process, loving our teammates,” Hughes said. “So if we’re down in the game, we’re going to love the process of coming back and winning that game. … I think last week was just a great preparation week for this.”
American Fork looked like a completely different team in the second half, tying the contest at 14-14 midway through the third quarter as their high-powered offense that’s averaged 40 points per game kicked into high gear and their much-improved defense tightened up even more.
Abbott put the Cavemen ahead, seemingly for good, with a 9-yard scramble a minute into the fourth quarter. The athletic senior playmaker engineered what appeared to be the game-clinching drive later in the quarter, but his pass in the red zone was tipped and picked off. Bingham then tied the score back up at 21-all with 5:20 remaining.
A long and rushed A.F. field goal — from 49 yards away as time was running out — just missed right of the goal posts as the fourth quarter ended.
That, however, set up some overtime heroics as junior receiver Devin Downing hauled in a go-ahead TD pass from Abbott as the Cavemen capitalized on their possession.2 comments on this story
American Fork’s defense, which went from being a liability in 2017 into a terrific weapon this season, came up big in OT. Jeremiah Shipley intercepted Bingham to clinch the comeback win.
The Cavemen, who were tied with Bingham at halftime of their regular-season loss (28-24), never stopped believing even when the scoreboard and momentum were unfavorable.
“We knew we had it in the bag,” Hughes said. “When we went in at halftime, we were smiling because, hey, it was a challenge and we love that.”
They also loved the 34-7 halftime lead they had over their 6A champion opponent Lone Peak in an eventual 51-21 Region 4 blowout win, no doubt.