SALT LAKE CITY -- Undersized and outmanned, somehow the Titans found a way.
With the game on the line, Syracuse High's highly-touted defense lived up to its billing Thursday in the state 5-A semifinals at the University of Utah.
Region 4 co-champion Bingham, facing fourth-and-2 at the Titans 15-yard line with 50 seconds remaining and trailing by five points, took a timeout before its biggest play of the season.
Undefeated Syracuse, which was playing in its second straight 5-A semifinal-round game, then called a timeout to set its defense.
The right side of the Titans defensive line stonewalled Bingham running back Scott Nichols at the 14 with 46 seconds left. Following a measurement -- just to be sure -- the Miners were a half-yard short of a first down.
Down four starters, including senior quarterback/kicker Brock Anderson who underwent surgery for a torn Achilles tendon in his right foot before the game ended, Syracuse stormed into the Nov. 16 state 5-A championship game with a 21-16 victory over Bingham at wind-swept Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"This is the best feeling in the world," said Titans senior wideout/cornerback Diante Mitchell. "They always say to take advantage of your second chances, and we took advantage of them today."
Mitchell had a game-high six receptions for 106 yards, including a 57-yard catch-and-run touchdown that gave Syracuse a 14-7 lead at 3:48 of the third quarter.
"We believed that we could win even when the whole state doubted us," he said. "The state didn't believe that we could do it, but the kids and the Syracuse community did."
The Miners (10-3 overall) were limited to a season-low point total in having their five-game winning streak snapped. Bingham was making its sixth semifinal appearance in seven seasons, and seeking its fourth championship game berth in five years.
But an opportunistic Titans defense, which scored 14 points off five Bingham turnovers -- four fumbles and an interception -- keyed the rousing win while sidestepping Syracuse's 0-2 semifinal roadblock.
"I thought we played as well as we have all year, especially being three guys down," said Titans defensive coordinator Dayne Faerber. "We went to a 'heavy' package on that fourth-down play, putting in an extra defensive lineman. I knew we had a pretty good game plan coming in.
"Being out three starters (Koa Mo'o, Jake Garver and Kavika Fonua) is not a great situation to be in, especially against a team like Bingham," he said. "We had kids fill in for those starters and they did a good job. The five turnovers we got were huge and great momentum shifters."
In their first 5-A championship appearance on Nov. 16, the Titans (12-0) tangle with Region 3 champion Jordan (11-1) at 2:30 p.m. at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It came down to inches again, but this time it was in our advantage," Mitchell said. "We're happy to be in the state championship right now. Not too many people have the opportunity to do that."
Blake Taurone, Cardon Malan, Kyler Roberts and Kaden Craig each recovered a fumble for Syracuse; Wyatt German had a pass interception.
Bingham had 304 total net yards on 55 offensive plays, but rushed for just 115 yards on 39 carries. Syracuse had only 176 total net yards on 62 offensive plays with two interceptions, but was 2 of 2 in red-zone scoring.
"New players stepped up today in the defensive backfield and we needed it big-time," Mitchell said. "Dillon Spencer, Colton Chadwick and Will Haddick were huge."
Fonua, a junior strong safety/running back/kick returner, sprained his left ankle Tuesday in practice after stepping on a teammate's foot during a passing drill.
He tested the ankle during warm-ups, but the pain was too severe.
"The coaches would have let me play, if I could go," Fonua said. "I'll be ready next week."
The Titans alternated quarterbacks in the first half, going with senior Spencer Johnson and sophomore Kole Tracy.
Tracy, who took all the second-half snaps, completed 10 of 19 passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns with one interception.
"Brock helped me with some of the reads and told me to be calm and play like it's another game," said the 16-year-old Tracy. "I was a little nervous when Bingham got the ball back (on the Miners 39 after a 17-yard punt with 3:20 remaining). We had to depend on our defense and let them do what they needed to do."
Tracy had taken only two varsity snaps prior to Friday's game.
"It was huge for Kole to come in under these circumstances and lead us to a win," Mitchell said. "We told him not to think about it, just go out and have fun."
syracuse 21, bingham 16
At Utah's Rice-Eccles Stadium
Bingham 7 0 0 9 -- 16
Syracuse 0 7 14 0 -- 21
Bingham--Weichers 78 pass from Bowles (Green kick).
Syracuse--Kiwa Mo'o 3 pass from Tracy (M. Kealamakia kick).
Syracuse--Mitchell 57 pass from Tracy (M. Kealamakia kick).
Syracuse--Tracy 2 run ((M. Kealamakia kick).
Bingham--Weichers 62 pass from Bowles (Green kick).
Bingham--Safety, Barney tackled in end zone.