Earlier in the game he took an elbow right in the eye and he didn’t think he was going to be able to come back. That’s just sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet. – Matt Kennaley, Bingham HS head coach

WOODS CROSS — A blessing and a curse.

Those are the words Bingham coach Matt Kennaley used before the game to describe the nonstop play of forward Gabe Altheman.

In the Miners’ 5A semifinal matchup with Copper Hills on Tuesday afternoon, the sophomore’s presence was definitely the former over the latter.

“Such a blessing right there,” Kennaley said of Altheman’s golden goal with two minutes remaining in the first overtime of the first 5A semifinal, which gave Bingham a 3-2 victory.

“A blessing to see him take that ball down against three guys and get behind (the goal) and just still manage to get a shot off.”

Altheman’s shot came from along the end line, hit the far post, and rolled into the net.

“Earlier in the game he took an elbow right in the eye and he didn’t think he was going to be able to come back,” Kennaley added. “That’s just sweet. Sweet, sweet, sweet.”

The victory is the Miners’ first against Copper Hills since 2008 and sends the squad to the finals for the first time since 2001, when Bingham won the championship.

“What a sweet opportunity to play in a big game and to play a team we haven’t beat in a long time,” Kennaley said. “To beat them on this field at this stage of the year — it’s just sweet.”

Bingham struck first when junior Gage Davis outpaced the Copper Hills defense and one-touched the ball past the oncoming goalkeeper in just the sixth minute.

The Grizzlies responded with a Connor Thompson penalty kick in the 25th minute, and then Dallin Noble gave Copper Hills the halftime lead with just 1:30 remaining before the midpoint.

Davis tied the game at 2-apiece just three minutes into the second half, and the score remained tied until Altheman’s overtime sequence.

The Grizzlies were the third-place team out of Region 3 and finish the season 10-5-4. Thompson, a senior who missed most of his junior year due to injuries, finished the season with a 5A-best 20 goals.

Bingham, which won its fourth-consecutive match and holds a record of 13-5-1, entered the state tournament as the No. 3 seed out of Region 4.

“We knew, being a No. 3 seed, the road was never going to be easy, but we were motivated,” Kennaley said. “(We had) this attitude that no matter who we play, we’re going to have to play.”

Now, for the first time, the coach gets to take his team to Rio Tinto Stadium for the championship game Thursday.

“I’ve watched a game there or two, never coached there,” he said. “I’m riding (the players) coattails, really. I’m just enjoying the ride as much as I can.”

Sarah Thomas is a graduate of the University of Utah and has been covering sports for the Deseret News since 2008. EMAIL: sthomas@desnews.com