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High school football: Miners' strong ground game, defense too much for Silver Wolves

SALT LAKE CITY — The Miners will get their wish.

For the past year, Bingham High's football team has been hoping for a state playoff rematch with Lone Peak.

On Thursday, the Miners and Knights made sure that'll happen. And this time, it'll be for the 5A state championship.

Unbeaten Region 3 champion Bingham (13-0) certainly did its part, parlaying a punishing ground game and a determined defensive effort into a 35-12 victory over feisty Region 1 co-champion Fremont in Thursday's semifinals.

Lone Peak, which beat the Miners in last year's semifinals before falling to Herriman in the state title game, hammered American Fork 66-19 to set the stage for a promising 5A championship showdown.

"I'm excited, I'm excited to see what they got," Bingham senior running back Daniel Loua said of the Knights, whose lone loss this season came against the Miners, 42-21, in a preseason game back in early September. "They're a better team now; we're a better team now. We'll see who's better."

"I think it'll be a barnburner, so get your tickets," Bingham head coach John Lambourne said of next Friday's matchup.

"We're way excited," said Bingham junior running back Amoni Kaili. "It's all about the revenge story, it's all about the revenge story. That (preseason) one didn't count, that one didn't count. This one counts next week."

With season-long leading rusher Jahvontay Smith (just three carries for 16 yards) slowed by a high ankle sprain, Bingham's running-back-by committee got a combined 260 yards rushing and four touchdowns from Loua and Kaili.

"We just go with what we were doing good, and that was what we were doing good," Loua said of a Bingham ground attack which accrued 132 yards from Loua, 128 from Kaili, 85 more from Tate Peterson and, thanks to its tremendous depth at the position, piled up 401 yards rushing in all. "We were pounding the ball over and over again.

"Jahvontay, we want to rest him for the more important game. If we need him, we'll put him in."

"Pretty impressive when you have three running backs run the ball the way they did," Lambourne said. "I like it; it's good for us."

Meanwhile, the Miners' defense — stung by the Silver Wolves' impressive scoring drive on the game's opening possession — repeatedly turned them back after that, with Loua, Tongi Langi and Lolani Langi leading the way.

"Our defense was locked down," Kaili said. "They just kept to their assignments and played like we practice, and we came out with a good win."

And this one came against a high-scoring Fremont squad which had averaged almost 42 points per game this season coming into the semis.

"We knew that they were going to be a good football team," Lambourne said of the Silver Wolves. "Credit them for doing a lot of real good things despite only scoring 12. They did a lot of lot of good things, and they have some tremendous football players.

"I respect their staff. (Fremont head coach) Kory (Bosgieter) does a terrific job, but you've got to give credit to our guys for the work ethic they showed out there. They kept battling, especially after they got that first score on us. Our guys didn't panic, and our coaches did a terrific job. My hat's off to our whole coaching staff."

Indeed, Fremont (10-2) looked like it would make a game of it when the Wolves took the opening kickoff and, led by senior running back Austin Freeman, marched 80 yards in 11 plays and grabbed a 6-0 lead on Freeman's 16-yard scoring scamper.

Bingham came right back on its first possession with an 80-yard scoring drive of its own, with Kaili going the final 4 yards and Kade Lever tacking on the first of five PAT kicks to make it 7-6.

Fremont drove inside Bingham's 40-yard line on its next two possessions, but could not capitalize on its opportunities. And the Miners grabbed a 14-6 halftime lead when Loua scored on a 19-yard run with just 55 seconds left in the first half.

"It gave us that little bit of breathing room," Lambourne said, "and we knew that we needed to come out and finish some drives ourselves, and we were able to do that."

After Bingham's second score, a 60-yard kickoff return by Fremont's Haze Hadley helped put the Wolves on the doorstep of another score with time running out in the half. Hadley then hauled in three short passes from Saxton Morby to get Fremont inside the Bingham 10.

But the Wolves couldn't convert, and time ran out on their scoring threat.

Bingham then took the second-half kickoff and again marched 80 yards, with Kaili going the final yard for a 21-6 lead.

"We run hard," Kaili said. "It was the O-line, really, they were opening up big holes for us runnng backs to get through. Just good results came from that."

"We left some points on the field," Bosgieter said. "That last drive, the last scoring drive before the half and the first scoring drive after the half ... I don't know if anybody realizes how important those two drives are in a football game. We didn't do well with that."

After another Fremont drive was snuffed by Loua's fumble recovery, the Miners made it 28-6 when Loua tiptoed 30 yards down the sideline and into the end zone with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter.

Fremont finally got on the scoreboard again early in the fourth period when Morby zipped a 20-yard touchdown pass to Hadley, who finished the day with 13 catches for 156 yards receiving.

But Bingham put it out of reach when quarterback Matt Degn hooked up with Loua on a 15-yard TD toss with 6:22 remaining.

Morby finished with 223 yards passing in the final game of his high school career, and Freeman had 81 yards rushing.

"Our kids never stopped trying and they never quit," Bosgieter said proudly.