High school football: Skyridge advances to semis, beats Bingham, 45-20

The Skyridge Falcons are going to get their shot next week.

Skyridge dominated all four quarters of the afternoon game of the 6A football state championship semifinals on Thursday, beating Bingham 45-20 to book its trip to the championship game for the third time in the program’s seven seasons of existence. They have not yet won a championship in school history.

Bingham’s offensive game plan kept the ball out of the hands of the Skyridge offense, and the Falcons’ offensive unit didn’t even step onto the field until the first minute of the second quarter. Once they did, however, they repeatedly sliced up the Miners’ defense, scoring on nearly every drive. The Falcons didn’t punt the ball until late in the fourth quarter with the game already in hand.

“We like it that way,” Lehman said. “We like to keep our offense on the field and keep moving the ball. We played really efficient today. (McCae) played a great game, both in the run and pass game. We took what they gave us, and some of those were big plays, and it created a lot of opportunities for us.”

Skyridge senior quarterback McCae Hillstead completed 12 of 18 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Senior running back Tate Walker was efficient all day and had a nose for the end zone with 13 carries for 71 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The Falcons’ offensive line facilitated not only a rushing attack that netted 122 yards and three touchdowns, but also didn’t allow a single sack of Hillstead against a defense that had 26 of them going into the game.

“The O-line was doing its job,” Walker said, “and when the O-line does its job, everything else clicks. Hats off to the O-line, they played great today.”

While the Miners’ offense was doing all they could to keep the ball away from Hillstead and the offense, they had a hard time keeping the ball out of the hands of the defense. The Falcon defense overwhelmed Bingham’s offensive line and swarmed in the secondary, intercepting three passes. Skyridge even hauled in another two picks beyond that that were negated by penalties.

A defensive play in the first quarter arguably determined the course of the game when Bingham marched all the way into the redzone on its first drive. The Miners used nearly nine minutes of clock, only to have Skyridge senior defensive back Smith Snowden nab a pick inside the 10 and return it 95 yards for Skyridge’s first touchdown, thus the Falcons went into the second quarter with a 7-0 lead without a single offensive snap.

“Those guys, they move the ball on offense (and) they chew up so much clock,” Lehman said. “We didn’t even touch the ball in that first quarter … For us to be up, 7-0, after a whole quarter where they possessed the ball all the way the field. It was critical for him not just to pick the ball, but to take it all the way back.”

Skyridge owned the second quarter, getting out to a 21-0 lead before Bingham finally found the end zone on an untimed down at the end of the first half when Miners senior quarterback Dallen Martinez flung the ball while falling down to senior running back Carson Sudbury. Sudbury spun out a defender and leapt into the end zone for Bingham’s first points.

Thanks to the TD, the Minders had some fire in them coming into the second half. The Miners scored on their first possession of the second half, intercepted Hillstead on the next drive and scored again. Sudbury accounted for every Bingham touchdown in the game as he collected 166 total yards of offense, including 136 receiving yards on eight catches.

What the Miners couldn’t do however, was stop Skyridge’s offense from moving the ball, and the Falcons continued to score in every quarter of the game, including a game-sealing touchdown on a 10-yard touchdown by Walker after Skyridge nabbed interception No. 3.

“I like how this team’s playing together,” Lehman said. “I like how this team continues to work even when bad things happen in the game. I like how this is playing disciplined and with high character, and it gives us a shot.”

The Falcons looked at the top of their game throughout the day, which is where they’ll need to be as they head into a title game that also pits them against Corner Canyon, one of only two teams that beat them in the regular season.

“We’ve been working for this a long time,” Walker said. “This Class of 2023 has really worked their butts off to get here. We’re not done yet, though. We got another game … we wanted this rematch.”

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