As long as we do what we’ve been doing for the past two or three weeks, I think that gives us a chance, and that’s all we ask for, a chance —West coach Keith Lopati
Peck is using last week’s struggles against Alta to get his players refocused for a deep playoff run and perhaps an eighth state title in school history.
Lopati, meanwhile, is telling his players what a unique opportunity they have to play the No. 1 team in the state in the playoffs and to take the field with confidence for this Friday’s 5A first-round game.
Regardless of the motivation tactics, everyone knows this matchup is a gigantic mismatch.
Bingham is 10-0 and ranked in the top 100 nationally, while West has a losing record and didn’t clinch a playoff berth until the final game of the regular season.
None of that matters to Lopati.
“As long as we do what we’ve been doing for the past two or three weeks, I think that gives us a chance, and that’s all we ask for, a chance,” said Lopati.
The coach is referencing the Panthers’ two-game winning streak to end the regular season. After opening region play with losses to Hillcrest, Hunter and Cottonwood, a playoff berth seemed like an impossible task. Back-to-back wins over Granger and Taylorsville, however, helped West sneak in on the final day.
“We’ve got our big boys up in the front who’ve done a great job and have figured out the schemes we’re running and how it needs to be executed,” said Lopati.
Peck was very complimentary of the duo after watching film this week, saying they’re athletic enough to play for just about any team in the state.
Nonetheless, duplicating last week’s success against Bingham will be extremely difficult — if not impossible.
In earlier meetings this year against stout running backs, Bingham’s defense limited Herriman’s Brandon Farmer to 85 yards, Brighton’s Osa Masina to 53 yards and Jordan’s Clay Moss to 84 yards.
“Defensively they’ve got their front seven that are lights. They’re fundamentally sound and they get after it,” said Lopati.
West probably shouldn’t expect Bingham to be looking ahead to the quarterfinals either. The Miners approached last week’s game at Alta with a laissez-faire attitude and quickly found themselves trailing 27-10 at the half. They dominated the second half with 23 unanswered points, but that only partially erased the hellacious first half.
“First of all, it was a major wake-up call that we can’t just show up,” said Peck. “Hopefully in a game like that we learned some lessons. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, we’ve got to be prepared to come out and play our game.”
Bingham’s offense ranked third in 5A, averaging 40.6 points, and can beat teams in a variety of ways.
On the ground, Scott Nichols is a deceptively powerful runner who’s surpassed 1,200 yards and tallied 13 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Kyle Gearig has completed 52 percent of his passes for 1,258 yards and 21 touchdowns, most of which have gone to stud tight end Dalton Schultz and speedy receiver Landen Measom.
If Bingham’s weapons are on their game, West’s appearance in the playoffs will be a brief one.
West statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 17.6 ppg (20th in 5A)
Scoring defense: 20.4 ppg (10th in 5A)
Passing leader: Chandler Wiley (20-70, 28.6%, 333 yards, 1 INT)
Rushing leaders: Landon Tapusoa (103 carries, 1,095 yards, 6 TDs), Isi Pupua (114 carries, 796 yards, 6 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Soakai Mounga (8 catches, 75 yards), Landon Tapusoa (5 catches, 87 yards)
Sack leaders: Helman Sagapolu (13.5 sacks)
Interception leaders: Jake Takenaka (4 INTs)
Bingham statistical breakdown
Scoring offense: 40.6 ppg (3rd in 5A)
Scoring defense: 14.8 ppg (3rd in 5A)
Passing leader: Kyle Gearig (90-173, 52.0%, 1,258 yards, 21 TDs)
Rushing leaders: Scott Nichols (162 carries, 1,212 yards, 13 TDs), Kyle Gearig (81 carries, 563 yards, 7 TDs)
Receiving leaders: Landen Measom (23 catches, 392 yards, 6 TDs), Dalton Schultz (24 catches, 383 yards, 8 TDs)
Interception leaders: Sky Manu (8 INTs)
Felt’s Facts for West High School
All-time record: 557-404-34 (120 years)
Region championships: 24 (1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1925 co, 1927, 1928, 1933, 1936 co, 1941, 1946, 1968, 1970, 1974, 1975, 1978 co, 1979, 1980, 1982, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
Playoff appearances: 39
All-time playoff record: 42-31-1
State championships: 7 (1925, 1927, 1973, 1975, 1980, 1984, 1992)
State championship record: 6-4
Felt’s Factoid(s): West has the second most wins (557) and games played (985) in state history. West holds the single-game blocked punt record: five against Bonneville in a 1973 Class 4A quarterfinal.
Felt’s Facts for Bingham High School
All-time record: 445-360-30 (90 years)
Region championships: 20 (1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1943, 1945, 1946, 1960, 1963, 1991 co, 1996 co, 1999 co, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2013)
Playoff appearances: 41
All-time playoff record: 44-33
State championships: 7 (1939, 1941, 1945, 1946, 2006, 2009, 2010)
State championship record: 7-2
Felt’s Factoid(s): Bingham is one of just five teams in state history to have a 14-0 record (2006). The 2009 and 2010 Miners totaled 1,192 points in 27 contests — the most points scored by any school over two consecutive seasons.