SANDY — For whatever reason, Bingham forgot to pay attention to the name on its opponent’s jersey Thursday night.
Regardless of records, Alta-Bingham games always require intensity and emotion a notch above any other game, but strangely Bingham played a bit disinterested in the first half and quickly found itself behind 17 points at halftime.
With an outright region championship and a perfect regular season on the line, Bingham coach Dave Peck challenged his team to play with some passion in the second half and prove it was worthy of the state's No. 1 ranking heading into next week’s 5A playoffs.
His players were up to the challenge.
Behind a dominant defensive effort that limited Alta to just 37 yards of total offense in the second half after it eclipsed 300 in the first half, Bingham scored 23 unanswered points after halftime to rally for the gutty 33-27 season-ending victory.
“It was just a difference in an attitude,” said Bingham coach Dave Peck.
Peck said Bingham didn’t make any grandiose offensive or defensive adjustments at the half. It was simply the players matching Alta’s intensity.
Quarterback Kyle Gearig spearheaded the comeback offensively rushing for 69 yards and a touchdown in the second half to go along with a pair of passing touchdowns to Dalton Schultz. Gearig didn’t have a single carry in the first half, but Bingham’s coaches called his number throughout the second half and it paid big dividends.
“He got us out of some holes and made some big plays with his legs, and made a couple great passes tonight. I think Kyle Gearig before it’s all said and done by next year is going to be a D-I quarterback. I really believe that. I just think his learning curve is going up all the time and these kind of things are just helping him,” said Peck.
In the first half, however, Alta quarterback Chipper Lucero was in the spotlight.
With ample time to throw the ball courtesy of tremendous blocking from his offensive line, Lucero picked Bingham apart, completing 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
Alta scored on 4 of 5 drives in the first half, including a 68-yard scoring drive over the final 45 seconds of the half that Lucero capped with a 3-yard TD pass to Mack Richards for the 27-10 lead. Richards finished the game with 140 receiving yards on 10 catches.
“Everything they did was just right. They called a great offensive game plan in that first half. I give (Alta) a lot of credit. I thought they really picked us apart,” said Peck.
The second half was an entirely different story, as Bingham’s defense limited the Hawks to two first downs and picked off Lucero twice.
It didn’t take long for Bingham to flip momentum in the second half as Gearig connected with Schultz on a 3-yard TD pass with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
Bingham regained possession with great field position after a blocked punt, and capitalized on a Chayden Johnston field goal to trim the lead to 27-20.
Bingham’s Sky Manu again gave his team great field position early in the fourth quarter, returning an interception to Alta’s 5-yard line, and three plays later Gearig tied the score at 27-27 with his second touchdown pass to Schultz.
The Miners' defense came up with another huge defensive stand on Alta’s ensuing possession, and after Landen Measom returned a punt 52 yards to the 15-yard line, Gearig scored on a draw play one play later to officially crush Alta’s upset bid.