It’s a good thing all Salt Lake County high schools are playing on artificial turf these days.
Otherwise, the Brighton Bengals’ white road uniforms might not have been able to handle it. Playing a tough opponent away from home for the third straight week, the Bengals outlasted East 14-3 Friday night and took over sole possession of first place in Region 6.
Kace Gurr rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns and the Bengals’ defense shut down East’s usually potent run-heavy offense by limiting big plays. The game was tied 0-0 at halftime before it got interesting and, not surprisingly, a little frustrating for the Leopards.
Afterward, coach Casey Sutera had his assistants push his players toward the bus. There was never any danger of post-game fisticuffs, but ….
“We’ve been celebrating too long on our opponent’s fields,” he said. “That’s not classy.”
Once again, though, Sutera admitted it was difficult to leave. With the win, Brighton improved to 6-1 overall and moved to 4-0 in region after consecutive wins over fellow east-side traditional rivals Olympus and Skyline. The Bengals now have three straight home games and Friday’s victory set up next week’s homecoming match against Park City to decide the crown.
“The kids rose to the challenge,” said Sutera, riding high in his first year since replacing Justin Hemm, who left to join 6A juggernaut Skyridge. “Once we got some momentum, we got our running game going and everything fell into place.”
Brighton actually started fast. The Bengals forced a three-and-out to open the game and then quarterback Jack Johnson moved the offense deep into East territory. Gurr reached the red zone before losing the ball and East’s Sam Tuakoi pounced on the fumble.
It was a long time before the Bengals came close to the goal line again. Johnson was often pressured, and even sacked four times. Finally, midway through the third quarter, they answered an East field goal with a strong drive.
A 25-yard pass from Johnson to Easton Smith awakened the team, and Gurr followed with a 10-yard run. Two plays later, Gurr plowed into the end zone on a 12-yard scamper.
After gaining 34 yards on 11 carries in the opening half, Gurr averaged 10 yards per carry after that and may have put himself on the All-region and All-state teams ahead of East’s Amini Amone, who has already rushed for over 4,000 yards in his career and has been one of the state’s headline running backs the last three years.
Amone, however, carried 17 times for “only” 81 yards and had just one rush for over 10 yards. He was also hurt by his team’s consistent personal-foul penalties. The Leopards had six on this night, which pushed them out of scoring range a couple of times.
East fell to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in region. A win would have put the Leopards in sole possession of first place. Junior quarterback Tucker McCormick, who came in having completed just 15 passes all season, led a last-minute drive, but his desperation heave toward 6-foot-4 tight end Matthew Frederick was intercepted by Brighton’s Jace Matheson.