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As running back Inoke Taufalele took the Bingham offense 80 yards to the end zone on only four carries, the questions disappeared.
No one was wondering if the Miners' offense needed Harvey Langi to keep rolling.
The Bingham football team made a strong statement with a 34-0 win over Hunter in the first round of the 5A playoffs. Despite a few turnovers and penalties, the Miners dominated the Wolverines on both sides of the ball, delivering a performance worthy of their top ranking in the state.
The biggest storyline going into the game turned out to be a nonfactor. With star running back Harvey Langi serving a one-game suspension after a recent arrest for trespassing, Taufalele filled in more than capably. The 5-foot-7 senior exploited Hunter's perimeter for 136 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell, however, was arguably Bingham's best weapon on the field. Cantwell threw for 157 yards, including touchdown passes of 10, 19 and 33 yards. He also picked up the slack in Langi's absence, adding 76 yards on the ground.
"I'm proud of our kids at Bingham," said coach Dave Peck, whose team will face Northridge in the second round. "I'm proud of the way they played."
Hunter had its moments, but squandered its scoring opportunities with fumbles in a rainy match. Down only 7-0 at the Bingham 11-yard line, the Wolverines lost 17 yards due to a bad snap. Hunter was held to a field-goal attempt, which it missed. The team also fumbled the ball away on a late drive.
The Wolverines hassled Bingham into two fumbles and an interception, and sacked Cantwell twice. But Hunter's defensive pressure couldn't stop the Miners' outside rushers or their passing game.
"I think we came out and didn't play scared, but we just had a lot of miscues," Hunter coach Dustin Pearce said. "We had to play our best game to win, and we didn't do that."
Bingham's best effort came on defense. Leva Bloomfield, the Wolverines' leading rusher, finished with 33 yards on 18 carries. The Miners also brought down Hunter quarterback Peter Fuimaono in the backfield several times.
The shutout of a respectable Hunter team the Wolverines were a coin flip away from being the No. 2 seed from Region 2 adds more credence to what some already believe: Bingham is the best high school football team to come out of Utah.
"Give them credit, they're a great football team," Pearce said. "They're loaded."
R Inoke Taufalele fills in for Harvey Langi nicely, rushing 13 times for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
• Bingham holds Hunter's leading rusher, Leva Bloomfield, to 33 yards on 18 carries.