COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — The Brighton sideline was full of smiles Friday night. It's funny how four straight wins affect a team.
That's coach Ryan Bullett's thinking after watching his Bengals whip American Fork 34-6 Wednesday in a Region 4 game. The victory moved Brighton to 6-3 overall and 3-2 in region, and a step closer to a 5A playoff berth.
"Amazing what a little confidence can do," Bullett said. "It's team chemistry. This is a game we had to have, and we're now playing at a little different level."
Sophomore Uaea Mesina rushed for 149 yards, but he was just one of many players who came up with big plays against the Cavemen, who have been battling a series of injuries this season. Mesina scored Brighton's first three touchdowns, including a 49-yard run on the Bengals' first play in the second half.
"They (the Bengals) did a nice job at the point of attack," said American Fork coach Aaron Behm, noting that Brighton had 331 yards rushing. "We didn't get the big play. We had two or three big drops (on passes) and two or three turnovers."
The biggest turnovers came early in the second half. Brighton led 14-0 at halftime, but Zach Wertz's interception of Ryan Pitcher's pass gave Brighton the ball, and Mesina broke free immediately afterward.
American Fork got the ball back, and this time Pitcher engineered a 12-play drive that reached Brighton's 11-yard line, but Mesina recovered a Cavemen fumble to end the threat.
"You know, there have been times when we've been good, but not lucky," Bullett said, alluding to last year's talented squad that missed the playoffs. "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
On Senior Night, marking Brighton's final regular-season home game, there was a lot of both.
The Bengals were able to move the ball, and the offense put together several long drives. Quarterback Derek Newell completed 10 of 14 passes for 71 yards and one touchdown. He had a backfield full of help. Brayden El Bakri had several big runs in the first half, and then Manase Ulukivaiola and Folo Ulukivaiola combined for more than 100 yards in the second half alone.
Brighton extended the lead to 34-0 in the fourth quarter when Newell found Zane Smith on a 14-yard scoring pass, and then Folo Ulukivaiola reached the end zone on a 34-yard run.
American Fork got a nice game from running back Trinity Devreaux, who had 119 yards on 14 carries, including a 50-yard run on his first carry. The Cavemen, however, had to pull Kaiden Worthington early in the game, due to an injury. . Behm said seven AF starters couldn't play in this game, and six are out of the season.
"It's just something we'll have to live with," he said. "But we'll keep pushing them. We won't give up."