American Fork earns overtime win over Bingham to gain 6A title game
SALT LAKE CITY – The ball couldn’t come down soon enough.
Bingham’s double pass attempt on third-and-long fluttered in the breeze in overtime, hanging tantalizingly in the air. American Fork had three defenders covering on the play and it was Jeremiah Shipley who came down with it, securing a thrilling 28-21 win for the Cavemen on Thursday at Rice-Eccles Stadium and sending his team into the Class 6A championship game.
Shipley was just one of many heroes for American Fork, which took down perennial power Bingham with a lethal passing game and a defense that rose to the occasion when it mattered. The win also earned a measure of redemption for AF receiver Devin Downing, who dropped a pass late in an earlier loss to the Miners.
This time, Downing was an acrobatic master of his craft, catching 11 passes for 163 yards and what proved to be the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
“I’m so emotional right now,” Downing said amongst his celebrating teammates. “It’s a great feeling. We worked so hard and I’m just so proud of these guys. We earned it.”
American Fork (11-2) nearly won the game at the end of regulation but Kyle Thompson’s 49-yard field goal as time expired was just wide right. Tied at 21-all, the Cavemen took the ball first in the overtime session. Boone Abbott and Chase Roberts hooked up for a big play to the Bingham 11-yard line. Two plays later, Abbott went back shoulder to Downing, who made a terrific catch in the end zone while blanketed by a defender for a 28-21 lead.
“That kid had a game today,” said Abbott, who riddled Bingham’s vaunted defense for 346 yards and two touchdowns. “He was awesome. We’ve done that (back shoulder pass) in practice a lot. I felt confident with it. No catch surprises me with the receivers I’ve got.”
Bingham had a chance to tie but a holding penalty put the Miners into 1st-and-20 at the 35-yard line. The third-down double-pass play was intercepted and American Fork had its upset.
After the game, AF coach Aaron Behm was asked if he knew when the Cavemen last won a state title, and before the question was finished he said, “1962. Does that answer your question? We’re going to give it everything we’ve got here in the next eight days.”
Bingham (10-2) rushed for 223 yards – 103 by Andrew Wimmer – but it was the play-action passing game that gave the Cavemen fits. Peyton Jones threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first half off play action but AF rallied behind Abbott, who also ran for 57 yards and two touchdowns. His 4-yard scramble into the end zone in the second quarter tied the game and the Cavemen trailed 14-7 at halftime.
“Our defense did great,” Behm said. “Our guys were physical up front. In the first half we got beat on a couple of deep balls, shots they were taking off play action. We cleaned that up at halftime and took that. That was the difference in the second half.”
Abbott fired a 4-yard strike to Dallin Johnson to make the score 14-all with 6:52 to play in the third quarter and after another AF defensive stop connected with McKay Nelson for a 42-yard strike to set up the Cavemen in scoring position again. On third down, Abbott proved too elusive for the Bingham defense and scrambled in for a nine-yard score and a 21-14 AF lead with 10:56 remaining in the game.
American Fork looked to go up by two scores midway through the fourth quarter and moved to the Bingham 12-yard line. But Miners linebacker Lolani Langi deflected an Abbott pass high into the air and Aaron Erickson came up with the interception, returning the ball to the AF 34. Four plays later, Jones threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Briasen Harward to tie the game at 21-all with 5:20 left to play, setting the final missed field goal and the overtime.
In the back of every AF players mind was their 28-24 loss to Bingham on Oct. 12, the Miners defending a pass into the end zone as time expired to thwart a gritty Caveman comeback.
“We were hungry, honestly,” Abbott said. “We wanted to just come out and show them how we really play. I don’t think we played to our potential (that game). It came down to a couple of plays and this time it came down to a couple of plays and we executed on those.”
American Fork rolled up 448 yards against Bingham, with Roberts, a BYU commit, finishing with 10 catches for 93 yards. The Cavemen also converted 9 of 16 on third down and scored on four of five red zone trips.
The AF defense came up with three interceptions – two by Connor Gibb – and withstood the constant pounding of Bingham’s power running game. Preston Viehweg led the Cavemen with 10 tackles (six solo) while Tanner Vickers and Sean Hardman had nine tackles each.
The last time American Fork advanced to the state championship was in 2014, when the Cavemen lost in the 5A title game to Bingham 20-3. AF won back-to-back Class B titles in 1961 and 1962.
“We just wanted to get to championship,” Abbott said. “That’s been our goal all year. We expected this. We expected to come out here and show them how it’s done and get to the championship.”