By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Dave Argyle (DBA Photography)
SANDY – It was one of the most highly anticipated games on the 2015 schedule. With Jordan proving week after week that it is still a team, particularly on offense, to be reckoned with and with everyone knowing how good Bingham is on defense, something had to give.
Heading into their Week 9 and 10 contests, the Miners were rolling with a dominating defense, but questions remained about the Bingham offense. Perhaps Wednesday night, with the games played early in the week due to the school’s heading out on fall break, delivered the emphatic message once and for all that the Miners will be tough to handle come tournament time.
Here are some of the story lines that jumped out Wednesday night in Sandy as Bingham beat Jordan 56-42 to maintain control in the race for the Region 3 title:
1) Finishing Strong
After beginning the game with three scoring drives, Bingham had seen the Beetdiggers respond with authority. Jordan scored a touchdown, got its first defensive stop of the night and then scored again to cut the margin to 21-13 with 1:57 left before halftime.
The Beetdiggers were in good position to stay within striking distance heading into the locker room for intermission, but then that all changed. The Miners closed out the first half strong and by the time the break arrived, their lead was back to 22 points.
First, Parker Tafua capped a five-play, 70-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run. That march took just over a minute and Bingham scored with 42.5 seconds left in the half. The 28-13 lead would have been tough enough for Jordan, but the Miners weren’t done scoring.
On the ensuing Beetdigger possession, a fumble on the center snap turned into a Bingham defensive score when BJ Taufalele picked it up and carried it seven yards to the end zone. An eight-point deficit became a 22-point hole in eight seconds.
2) Downhill Running
It might not be the most exciting brand of football for fans to watch, but when you’re running the ball as well as Bingham did Wednesday night, it’s hard to change anything. The Miners ran 20 offensive plays in the first quarter, and all of them were runs.
Bingham’s first pass came on the fourth play of the second stanza, and by then the Miners already led 14-0, and were on their way to the third touchdown. It wasn’t just that Bingham ran the ball, most of the carries went right into the middle of the Jordan defense.
The Miners just ran it straight downhill behind Cole Clemens, Soni Ofahengaue, Brigham Tuatagaloa, Tavian Myers and Bailey Brown and then they did it again and again and again, to the tune of 486 yards rushing.
Jahvontay Smith carried it 25 times for 175 yards and two touchdowns, while Brady Atkin ran it 14 times for 173 yards and three scores, while Elvis Vakapuna added 59 yards and a TD on 11 carries. Quarterback Matt Degn picked up 60 yards on the ground and Tafua had 19.
3) Early Defensive Domination
By the time the game was over, it looked like a fairly even game in terms of total offense, and it was only a 14-point margin on the scoreboard. This one, however, really wasn’t that close.
Jordan scored 23 of its points in the fourth period when it was really too little, too late.
When the game hung in the balance during the first half, Bingham looked like its usual dominating defensive self. Against an explosive offense like the Beetdiggers possess, it would be expected that Jordan would have some success, but the Miners did a good job controlling it during the first half.
On the opening Beetdigger drive, quarterback Drew Lisk was moving it through the air before a fumble derailed the drive inside the Miner 20. Siope Folau forced the loose ball and Jay Tufele recovered it.
After Bingham scored, a Tufele sack ended the next Jordan possession with a three-and-out, allowing the Miners to increase their advantage to 14-0. Another three-and-out followed, and the Miners made it 21-0.
Lisk and company got loose for a couple of scores the next two times they touched the ball, but then came that fateful sequence that ended the first half. The teams traded scores in the second half, but those early Bingham stops ended up making the difference in the final outcome.
4) Creative Play Calling
This year’s Miners have been so overwhelmingly dominant on defense that the defense is often lost in the shuffle. Bingham has had some offensive struggles, but one thing we forget is that head coach John Lambourne is an experienced and talented offensive coordinator.
Once Jordan closed the gap to 21-13 with less than two minutes to go in the first half, it felt like the kind of situation where a Miner team that had almost exclusively pounded the ball on the ground would run a few plays hoping to break something, and take what it got. Lambourne, however, was not content to go that direction and he went to the playbook for something special.
On first down, Bingham went to play action, and though Degn’s pass was not the most tightly-wound spiral of the night, it was effective. The toss found its way into the hands of Schyler Shoemaker for a 38-yard gain that moved the Miners deep into Jordan territory. Another connection with Shoemaker and a 19-yard hook-up with Dax Milne set up the Tafua touchdown.
It was just another example of the quality coaching that exists on the Bingham sideline.
5) Jordan’s 4th Quarter
The Beetdiggers were down big entering the final 12 minutes, but this is not a team that knows how to shut it down. Jordan attacked a 49-19 deficit like a team that expected to overcome the full 30-point hole. They didn’t, but they did deliver some offensive excitement along the way.
Lisk led the Beetdiggers on three fourth-quarter scoring drives that got his team with 14 points in the end. Jordan moved the ball the way it has all year, but against a Miner defense that may have lost a little bit of intensity because of the huge advantage.
For the game, Lisk completed 29-of-43 passes for 454 yards and five touchdowns. If you ignore the only number that counts to the quarterback, the final score, those are some impressive stats.
Spencer Curtis caught nine passes and Alika Tuia grabbed eight, as both totaled 147 yards receiving and each had one touchdown. Isaiah Jackson picked up 111 yards and two scores on his eight receptions.