DRAPER — There was the hype leading up to the game — a full week’s worth of anticipation that had the stands practically filling over with both Bingham and Corner Canyon students more than a half-hour before kickoff.
There was the game’s first touchdown, a 27-yard strike to Talmage Handley, that delivered an immediate message to the visitors.
There was the big celebration on the field at the end — one that didn’t fade out until long after the final whistle blew.
But the memory that will really stick with Corner Canyon quarterback Cole Hagen from the Chargers’ emphatic 56-28 win over Bingham on Friday was a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
The pass delivered the knockout blow — a 46-yard connection that put Corner Canyon up 49-28 — but that’s not the only thing that made it special. The same play could have happened against a winless team, at the end of a big blowout and Hagen would have remembered it just the same.
It was the first touchdown pass he has thrown to his brother Cody.
Cole found Cody on a slant route and Cody did the rest, running to the sideline and outracing everyone to the end zone.
“It's been happening for years, but this is the first one that actually counts,” Cole Hagen said.
It seemed to count a little more on Friday. Everything seemed to count a little more on Friday.
Corner Canyon, last year’s 5A state champions now playing in the 6A ranks, versus Bingham, the team that has been the standard in the state for years.
In the first matchup between the two high school powerhouses, there were questions to be answered: Were the Chargers the real deal or would the Miners once again throw aside another would-be challenger?
“It was the biggest game of the year,” Corner Canyon running back Austin Bell said.
It sure felt like it.
The build-up was immense with the standing-room-only crowd filtering into the Corner Canyon stadium long before the kick. And good thing the fans got there early because the Chargers (3-0) wasted little time making a statement.
On the first drive of the game, Cole Hagen went 4-for-4 for 42 yards, including the 27-yard touchdown to Handley.
It was more of the same on drive No. 2 with Cole Hagen finding Bell on a screen pass that Bell took all the way to the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown — the first of Bell’s four touchdowns on the night.
The two early drives were enough for the Corner Canyon students to start chanting: “5A’s harder. 5A’s harder.”
The new kids were here to play. And more so, they were here to win.
“We were excited about the opportunity,” Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar said. “I mean, they've been the benchmark. So it's a game we're going to get up for, for sure.”
Before the first half ended, Bell added touchdown runs of 11 and 16 yards and the Chargers took a slightly stunning 34-14 lead into the break.
The Corner Canyon offense, which had struggled some early in the season, sliced up the vaunted Miners defense. Bingham had no answer for Bell, no answer for Cole Hagen, no answer for the Corner Canyon screen passes.
And the Miners didn’t find many in the second half. Bell rolled off a 54-yard touchdown run, the Hagens connected on their long touchdown pass and Corner Canyon answered any doubts whether they could contend in 6A.
“Cole is just starting to get a little more comfortable,” Kjar said. “It’s a different set of receivers with a different skill set than we had last year, so we’re doing a little bit of different stuff and he’s just getting more comfortable.”
He looked pretty comfortable on Friday orchestrating the Chargers’ offense to eight scoring drives and throwing three touchdown passes. And Corner Canyon looked more than comfortable in its new classification.
Asked if the Chargers set out to prove something against Bingham, Cole Hagen downplayed the game’s significance.
“I mean, a little bit, not as much as you think,” he said. “At the end of the day, it's just another football game.”
So maybe it wasn’t the biggest game of the year for the Chargers. But only because it looks like they’ll have much bigger ones ahead.
“It just proves that we’re No. 1 in the state,” Bell said.
Now, they’ll have to keep proving that.