SALT LAKE CITY — A month ago, the Bingham Miners claimed a key Region 4 victory over rival American Fork to earn home-field advantage throughout the first two rounds of the 6A state playoffs.
On Thursday, though, the Cavemen got their revenge and beat the Miners 28-21 in overtime in the semifinals.
With the game tied, American Fork tried to steal the win in regulation, but placekicker Kyle Thompson narrowly missed right on a 49-yard field goal attempt with the clock expiring to send the game into overtime. But the Cavemen didn’t fret as quarterback Boone Abbott squeezed in an 11-yard toss to receiver Devin Downing for what would be the game-winning touchdown in the corner of the end zone.
Bingham would have one last opportunity to equalize, but quarterback Peyton Jones aired out a pass on third-and-19 that was picked off by American Fork defender Jeremiah Shipley to claim a Cavemen victory. It was the first time since 2012 that Bingham would lose two games to in-state schools in a season.
“It’s a big deal. It’s a big deal for us,” American Fork coach Aaron Behm said about beating rival Bingham. “We’ve come a long way in nine years, since not even having a shot against these guys. Bingham does such a good job year in and year out, and so to finally get them, it means something.”
Shipley's interception leads @afhsevents to the Class 6A state final with a 28-21 win over Bingham.
Watch @pghighschool & @LPHSsports next on https://t.co/j7bv4G98Gn: https://t.co/2QwueR0foUpic.twitter.com/xUWcESquqm— KSL Sports (@kslsports) November 8, 2018
Abbott said the loss to Bingham in October was “a good thing for us” because it allowed the team to focus more on the road ahead of them in the playoffs.
“I think it really put us through adversity going through two road playoff games. It made us better,” he said. “I think playing teams like that and playing at different places, I think that made us a better team. I think that just prepared us more for this.”
The Cavemen got it done against the Miners with 448 total yards of offense, with most of that coming in their pass-heavy attack. Abbott threw for 346 yards and two touchdowns on 30-of-53 passing, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. But it was his ability to run the ball in the second half that made the difference for American Fork.
Abbott would finish with only 57 rushing yards, but he gave the Cavemen life by extending plays and exploiting a Miners defense that was locking up his receivers. The senior quarterback would finish with two rushing touchdowns, including a fourth-quarter 9-yard run in which he made four defenders miss for the score.
The Cavemen had six receivers contributing to the effort, but it was Downing, who finished with 163 receiving yards on 11 catches, that gave American Fork the victory.
With the score tied 21-21 with under a minute to play in the game, Downing managed to pull down a pass from Abbott to the sideline over his shoulder while finding a way to keep one foot inbounds. The play would eventually set up the Cavemen’s field goal attempt at the end of regulation.
American Fork nearly lost the game after two turnovers shifted momentum into Bingham’s corner late in the fourth quarter and gave the Miners life. While inside the red zone, one of Abbott’s passes was tipped at the line of scrimmage and Bingham defender Aaron Erickson returned the ball 52 yards to the American Fork 34-yard line.
Bingham’s Jones would connect late with Briasen Harward for a 19-yard touchdown pass to tie the game up 21-21. American Fork’s Boone would fumble the ball on the next drive, giving Bingham another opportunity to score. But the American Fork defense, which smothered the Miners for much of the game, forced a three-and-out series to give the ball back to the Cavemen.
“Our defense came up with some big stops and everyone played their hearts out. I’m so proud of them,” Downing said. “I believed in them. I was like, ‘defense you’ve got this.’ And they came up big for us.”
The Miners finished the game with 324 total yards of offense, but most of their production had to come in the passing game due to American Fork’s ability to stop their traditional run-heavy offense. All three of Bingham’s touchdowns came on passing plays as Jones finished the day throwing for 101 yards on 6-of-14 passing.
“We’re excited, but it’s unfinished business for us,” Abbott said. “We’re looking forward to next week now, and we’ve got to do what we’ve been working towards all year.”
Up next for the Cavemen in the 6A championship game is another Region 4 rival. The winner of the Lone Peak-Pleasant Grove game will play American Fork next Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.