Monday, January 30, 2012

Bingham football yearbook: Tuifua profile

Here is my feature article on Bingham senior running back Tisi Tuifua. This article is being published in Bingham's 2011 football yearbook.


His run got Bingham to a good start,
but football was just part of fine year

By Bruce Smith

Tisi Tuifua admitted he was looking forward to his senior season for a long time.

Tuifua, a 6-foot-1, 210-pound running back, was part of Bingham’s two state championships. As a junior, he carried the ball sparingly but moved into the starting lineup in the Miners’ title-game victory over Fremont at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Bingham’s depth at fullback and his own shyness put him on the bench to start 2011. Tuifua said he wanted to showcase his skills. It didn’t take long.

On Bingham’s third play, Tuifua entered the game, took a handoff from quarterback Brady Lail, found a hole and sprinted 80 yards for a touchdown.

“I had never scored a (varsity) touchdown until then,” Tuifua said. “The best part was I was able to see my dad’s reaction. The play was ’31-zone.’ My tailback (Daniel Palepoi) blocked for me and he had a wonderful block. I’m sure anyone could have scored, but I ran fast.

“I used my speed for the weight I didn’t have,” he added.

The quick score gave Bingham a 7-0 lead. It was one of four touchdowns Tuifua had during the season. The Miners were deep at fullback, and Tuifua split time with two other players, including his good friend, Shinji Ishigaki. He finished with 238 yards on just 19 carries, but that set the school’s season record for highest average yards per carry.

He also caught three passes for six yards. But what made him the most proud was his grades, scoring well on the ACT exam and being named to the Region 4 All-Academic team.

“Getting good grades has always been important,” he said. “I want to get an academic scholarship (into college.”

He set himself apart doing both.

His quick touchdown was important for the Miners, who were wondering what kind of success they would have after dominating the previous two years. Tuifua’s 4.4 speed (in the 40-yard dash) made a big difference.

That play also put a damper on West Jordan’s upset hopes. The Jaguars, the Miners’ neighborhood rival, believed they had one of their best teams ever but quickly found themselves behind 20-0.

Bingham coach Dave Peck admitted afterward how happy he was to see the Miners came out and play well after losing so many talented players the year before.

“I don’t think these guys know they aren’t as good as previous Bingham teams,” Peck said. “They think they’re the next great Bingham squad.”

Overall, the season didn’t go as well as the previous two years, but Tuifua wasn’t disappointed. He said there were too many great accomplishments, including some of his own.

“Obviously, it had a disappointing end,” he said. “We did get better through the season; we just didn’t get good enough. It was still a good year, and I developed a lot of friendships, especially with the younger kids.”

Tuifua played a big role – on and off the field. Tuifua admitted he has a good singing voice and was part of the school’s Glee Club. In addition, he served as a Student Body Officer as Vice President of Records. It’s a role he relished and kept him busy throughout the year. When he wasn’t at the many Bingham workout sessions and practices, he was representing the SBOs at other school events.

Truth this, Tuifua accomplished quite a bit since moving over from Riverton when he was 14 years old.

Tuifua said his favorite memory was the bus ride home from Rice-Eccles Stadium after beating Fremont his junior year. He also appreciated the relationship the Bingham football and volleyball teams had as they supported each other at games.

When the football season ended, Tuifua’s great experiences continued. As an SBO, he continued to be active in every school event. He planned to attend college. He may not have had the statistics to get a football scholarship, but he had too much going for him to continue to find success.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Skyline girls top Oly in region rivalry game

On Jan. 27, I watched the Skyline girls beat Olympus in a battle for supremacy in Region 7. It was a pleasure to watch these teams. I know the coaches well and understand all the effort they put into their teams. Here's the article I wrote for their basketball yearbooks.

Tuinei, Aberton spark Eagles to rivalry win

By Bruce Smith

It was rivalry night at Skyline and Olympus high schools. While most of the fans likely jammed Oly’s gym to watch the boys game, it was a busy night at Skyline where the girls decided first place in the Region 7 race.

Miquelle Askew scored 15 points and Ashley Aberton had 13 as the Eagles downed the Titans to take a two-game lead in the region standings. At least, that’s how the media reported it.

If you were there, you had to see it much differently.

Ta’a Tuinei had just two points. That was well below her 7.8 points per game average, but she and Aberton seemed to be all over the court. Together, they created havoc on both ends of the floor as Skyline won its ninth straight game.

Tuinei had 14 rebounds as Skyline held a 36-18 advantage in that department. She also lunged out the perimeter in the Eagles’ zone defense and blocked four shots.

“She was the key,” said Skyline coach Deb Bennett. “She’ll probably leave here as the career leader.”

Aberton, meanwhile, used her superior speed and quickness to break Oly’s press and pass the ball to open teammates. The Titans had far more depth, but no defender could catch up to her.

She was credited with just one assist, but what she meant on the court was far more.

“She has an extra gear that nobody else has,” Bennett said.

The win improved Skyline to 11-5 overall and 5-0 in region. The Eagles have a two-game lead in the standings with just five to play. Olympus had its chance, but fell to 8-7 overall and 3-2.

Oly coach Kael Ashton said he was feeling pretty good early because the Titans got the shots they wanted. Oly had a couple of nice scoring runs early in the game and actually had a four-point lead at one point. Ashton, however, noted that Skyline got transition baskets off blocks, missed shots and 18 Titan turnovers to put the Eagles back in front.

Skyline led 23-19 at halftime, and held Oly scoreless for the first four minutes of the second half. The Eagles slowly built the lead behind the scoring of Askew, who also snared 11 rebounds, Aberton and sophomore Sydnee Taylor (nine points).

“Other teams have double-teamed and thrown a box-and-one on Miquelle, but other players are stepping up,” Bennett said. “It all starts at the point, though, where Ashley has that leadership role, and she wants it.”

Oly’s superior depth (the Titans used 11 players) wasn’t much of a factor. Rachel VanderToolen had a fine performance, with 17 points, but she was the only player who consistently tried to go to the basket.

That fact surprised Ashton, especially after they had done it so many times in recent games.

“We had a lot of missed opportunities,” he said. “We are a senior-laden team and are used to playing in big games. We were jittery.”


Olympus 9 10 7 6 - 32
Skyline 10 13 10 11 - 44

– Janie Egan 1-3 0-0 2, Rachel VanderToolen 4-5 7-13 17, Kenzie Droubay 3-8 0-1 6, Lily Besler 0-2 0-0 0, Jen Nichols 1-5 0-0 2, Kristan Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Morgan Oliphant 1-4 0-0 2, Lizzie Egan 1-2 0-0 3, Ellie Gillet 0-0 0-0 0, Jessie Mahas 0-1 0-0 0, Alyssa Meredith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 11-35 7-14 32.
SKYLINE (44) – Ashley Aberton 3-7 7-9 13, Ta’a Tuinei 1-6 0-0 2, Miquelle Askew 7-15 1-2 15, India Phidnis 1-1 0-1 2, Sydnee Taylor 3-9 3-8 9, Mia Mortensen 1-1 1-1 3, Caroline Li 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-39 12-21 44.
Total fouls: Olympus 16, Skyline 13. Fouled out: J. Egan. Technical fouls: Li.
Three-point shooting: Olympus 3-9 (VanderToolen 2, L. Egan). Skyline 0-4.
Rebounds: Olympus 18 (VanderToolen 5), Skyline 36 (Tuinei 14).
Turnovers: Olympus 18, Skyline 16.

Bingham 2011 football recap

Here's the article I wrote for the Bingham 2011 football yearbook, which looked back on the Miners' season.

You can’t win them all
Miners fell short in bid for third title
but the program is still at its peak,
and continued to play at a high level

By Bruce Smith

These days, a lot is expected from the Bingham Miners football team.

Coming into the 2011 season, they were the two-time defending 5A state champions. They had won 24 straight games and were nationally ranked. The local media suggested coach Dave Peck’s 2010 squad was the best Utah high school football team ever.

“We had a lot to live up to,” admitted Peck. “And we won’t back down from any challenge. The kids know this is big-time football and they are part of it.”

The Miners didn’t quite make it to a third straight title, but it wasn’t without trying. Bingham finished with a 9-3 overall record and second place in Region 4. Its winning streak eventually reached a school record 26 games. Bingham lost to a quality Southern California school and the two teams that eventually met for the state title – Lone Peak and Fremont.

“If you would have asked me at the start of the season, I’d say, ‘9-3 is good,” Peck said. “But at the end, I felt like we could have been in that state championship game. Losing to Fremont was a letdown and the kids wanted another shot at Lone Peak.”

Bingham lost 15 Division I players from last year’s team, and a lot of younger players were asked to step up. The Miners also got big plays from guys like Jared Afalava, Brady Lail, Daniel Palepoi, Hayden Weichers, Will Nasilai, Poasi Taukeiaho and others.

“We played a lot of kids,” Peck said. “We had 13 sophomores and some freshmen come up. That should pay dividends.”

Bingham won its opener 45-28 over West Jordan, but it was costly. The Miners were immediately hampered by injuries. They lost wide receiver Josh Davis, offensive lineman Thomas Hippler and linebacker Taylor Hansen. An injury (concussion) to Palepoi midway through the Lone Peak game played a key role in that outcome.

Running backs like Tonga Manu, Tisi Tuifua and others stepped up, and the strong-armed Lail provided a more precise passing attack. Peck said Bingham won’t accept any kind of dropoff. Bingham will lose 34 seniors, but everything is in place these days for the Miners to simply reload.

The future looks bright. The Miners’ junior varsity and sophomore teams each finished with 7-1 records. With Lone Peak and Fremont being senior-laden, Bingham should again be a candidate to win it all in 2012.

Peck said there were many highlights of 2011. Bingham had its share of local media attention. The Miners played before huge home crowds and were usually the primary game on every opponent’s schedule. Bingham played on a local television a couple of times, defeated rival Alta for the fourth straight time at Rice-Eccles Stadium, visited sunny Southern California over Labor Day weekend, thrilled its home fans with a thrashing of Cottonwood at homecoming and made it to the 5A quarterfinals.

Three players – Afalava, Palepoi and Taukeiaho – made the all-state team. At press time, Afalava proved to be the lone Division I recruit, signing a letter-of-intent to play at Nebraska. He anchored a defense that will go down in history as one of the school’s best ever.

While the offense had its bright points, the defense gave up an average of less than 16 points per game. If you don’t count the night Lone Peak put up 45 with its MVP quarterback – Chase Hansen – that statistic is even more impressive.

After the Lone Peak loss, the defense gave up just seven points – a single touchdown – in wins over American Fork, Pleasant Grove and Lehi, plus its first-round playoff opponent, Kearns. Three straight shutouts tied a school record.

“What impressed me the most was how we came back from the Lone Peak game,” Peck said. “The kids were disappointed, but they played their guts out after that.”

There were no region or state championships this year, but Bingham football is still at its peak. After over 100 years, the football program is a driving force in the student’s tradition and confidence. It continues to make everyone associated proud to be a Miner and – for that – there is no end in sight.

Bingham football yearbook: Palepoi feature

Here's an article I wrote on Bingham High School running back Daniel Palepoi for the team's football yearbook.

Daniel Palepoi:

Bruising running back was key figure
in Miners’ bid for another state title

By Bruce Smith

Daniel Palepoi’s high school football career certainly didn’t follow a straight line.

Palepoi, a bruising 5-foot-11, 225-pounder, was the youngest of 14 kids and moved to Salt Lake from Las Vegas prior to his junior year and lived with his sister.

Although he had been used primarily on the defensive line and at linebacker, Bingham coach Dave Peck knew his brother, Anton, was in the NFL. Peck immediately viewed Daniel as the successor to Harvey Langi, the Miners’ all-time rushing leader who graduated last year.

“We saw him as being our ‘go-to’ guy,” Peck said.

Palepoi remembered how the change took place.

“Bingham wanted me at fullback or linebacker,” he recalled. “Coach Keith (Chatelain) saw me catch some passes and that’s how it started.”

As a junior, Palepoi carried just 20 times and averaged 10 yards per carry. As a senior, he opened the season with a 170-yard performance against West Jordan and was a workhorse the next week against Alta, carrying the ball 29 times at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Perhaps just as importantly, he helped the Miners dominate time of possession and keep it out of Alta’s hands.

“My offensive line made me look better than I was,” Palepoi said. “It was tough for a guy like me to come in after Harvey Langi. I was kind of scared to fill his shoes.”

That fear didn’t last long. Palepoi had injury issues all year, but finished with 1,180 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry and was an even bigger workhorse than Langi. He carried the ball 182 times, despite missing 2.5 games with a concussion suffered against Lone Peak and the outcome still in doubt.

“I don’t remember much about that game,” he said.

Most everyone else did.

In front of a full stadium and a locally televised audience, they remember that Palepoi had 113 yards on 19 carries in the first half as Bingham trailed just 21-17. The Miners actually took the lead in the third period on a run by Tonga Manu, but the offense couldn’t keep up.

Palepoi watched the rest of that game from the sidelines, and Peck had to find an alternative until he was ready to return.

“It was tough because Daniel gives you the power and the speed combination," Peck said. "I wasn’t taking any chances with it. At that point in the season, the No. 1 thing was getting healthy."

With the defense dominating opponents, Palepoi wasn’t necessarily needed. He remained out until Bingham’s “Senior Night” game against Pleasant Grove. Remembering that contest put a big smile on his face. He rushed for 212 yards on just 14 carries and scored three touchdowns.

“That was my best game,” Palepoi said. “The week before, they (the Vikings) had lost to Lone Peak by just 17-0 and they were all hyped up.”

Palepoi had scoring runs of 2, 72 and 55 yards in the 41-0 victory. He enjoyed being on the field that night and admitted to having an extra skip in his step. Putting Palepoi in the backfield again also fueled his teammates, who wanted another shot at Lone Peak with him at full strength.

It never happened, of course, but that only left questions of “what if.” Still, there were too many good memories to be disappointed.

“I think I’ll remember the Alta game most,” Palepoi said. “It was well-publicized and they said they would beat us and everyone had us as the underdog. Coach Peck told me that I might have 30 carries, but I didn’t believe he was serious.”

It turned out that was Palepoi’s introduction to how important he would be for Bingham this season, regardless of how he got there.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kearns rallies to beat Granger

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, I attended the Kearns-Granger boys basketball game. It was a close contest between west-side rivals. I wrote a nice article for the Kearns yearbook, which you can see below. I didn't get a chance to interview the Granger coach (Bernie Graziano), but hoped to get him later. Here's the story:

By Bruce Smith

Kearns coach Dan Cosby came into Tuesday night’s game against Granger trying to find an offense that seemed disorganized.

The Cougars came in averaging less than 50 points per game. Even worse, Region 2 leader Viewmont had held them to 25 a few days before. Turns out it was the defense that inspired the offense in Kearns’ 52-45 win over rival Granger.

Taylor Yager scored 14 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter as Kearns rallied from an 11-point deficit to pull out the win on its home court. Dayon Goodman added 17 points. However, despite those impressive statistics, it was the defense that saved the game.

“We had really been struggling over the last … seven quarters,” said Cosby. “We have really been trying to find our identity.”

Trailing 31-25 entering the fourth quarter, Kearns employed a box-and-one defense against Granger’s Isaiah Tademy. The gimmick worked well. Tademy still scored all 14 of Granger’s points in the final period, but Kearns forced several turnovers and changed the games momentum.

“We knew he (Tademy) liked to shoot the outside shot, and didn’t want to go inside,” Cosby said. “We made him pass the ball and see if the other guys could beat us.”

They couldn’t. Tademy finished with an amazing 33 points. The 6-foot-6 senior was obviously the best player on the court. His statistics were extraordinary. He showed his three-point shooting ability, but also connected on 18-of-20 free throws and added 10 rebounds.

Funny thing, thought. When Kearns adjusted its defense to focus on him, Granger only tried harder to feed him the ball.

Going into the fourth quarter with a 31-26 lead, Granger recognized that Kearns had increased its defensive pressure and just handed the ball to its star player and asked him to make a play. He scored on four consecutive possessions to give his team a 39-34 lead.

He couldn’t keep it up, however, and Granger’s problem was turnovers. They had 26 of them, and Kearns became a fast-breaking club in the fourth quarter with Yager leading the way. After Dayon Goodman scored to tie the game with 3:28 left, Yager swept to the basket, thanks to a nice screen from teammate Afuvai Le’iato, and scored on a layup and Kearns had its first lead.

The small, but vocal Kearns crowd went crazy and the players recognized it. Quickly the game got out of hand.

Goodman scored inside and then Yager poured it on with six straight points. In less than two minutes, Kearns had built an eight-point lead.

“Taylor wants to play at the next level (college) and I told him, ‘you have to show you are’ and he did that tonight,” Cosby said.

Cosby also praised Jarvis Andrews (7 points, 11 rebounds) and Kyle Runyon for their play. The 27-point fourth quarter was a season high and also gave Kearns momentum for the future.

Only time will tell if it lasts.


Granger 12 9 10 14 - 45
Kearns 5 8 12 27 - 52

– Israel Tademy 0-4 0-1 0, Zach Buchanan 1-5 3-3 5, Mo Valladolid 2-7 0-0 4, Isaiah Tademy 6-10 18-20 33, Taylor Pili 1-6 0-2 2, Makol Mawien 0-0 1-2 1, Arob Mandang 0-0 0-0 0, Nick Wetenkamp 0-1 0-0 0, Alonso Delatorre 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-33 22-29 45.
KEARNS (52) – Taylor Yager 6-11 8-10 20, Afuvai Le’iato 1-7 1-4 3, Skyler Peterson 0-1 0-0 0, Jarvis Andrews 3-7 1-4 7, Dayon Goodman 6-10 3-5 17, Kyle Runyon 0-1 0-0 0, Jordan Harvey 0-4 1-2 1, Tanner Westenskow 0-0 1-2 1, Darrell Allen 0-0 0-0 0, Lehi Afatasi 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 17-41 15-27 52.
Total fouls: Granger 23, Kearns 20. Fouled out: Pili. Technical fouls: Buchanan, Yager.
Three-point shooting: Granger 3-11 (Isaiah Tademy 3). Kearns 3-6 (Goodman 2, Yager).
Rebounds: Kearns 28 (Andrews 11), Granger 24 (Isaiah Tademy 10).
Turnovers: Granger 26, Kearns 23.

I'm back - and BUSY

I've been working with a lot of different people regarding my "Matchup" business, including a guy who has informed me how important social media can be. I'm so busy, and doing a lot of writing, so I'm going to once again begin posting my articles here on this blog. That way, you can see them and note what I'm doing.

So, here we go. Look for a bunch of new blogs soon.


About Me

My photo
I am the author of Matchup, which provides yearbooks to high school sports teams, commemorating their seasons.