Peculiar though it sounds halfway through high school football’s regular season, victory for Dimond on Thursday night almost certainly would have lifted the Lynx to within one win of a playoff berth.
Meanwhile, defeat for East likely would have placed the Thunderbirds one loss away from playoff peril.
But neither outcome transpired at Anchorage Football Stadium, where East owned Dimond from the outset of a rainy evening and captured a 21-0 Cook Inlet Conference victory.
Both teams remain in the hunt to seize one of the CIC’s four state playoff berths — East improved to 1-2 in conference and Dimond slipped to 2-1 in the CIC, where four league wins usually locks a postseason berth. Yet there was no doubting the T-birds were much the better team.
East dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage, outgained Dimond by a 2-to-1 margin and never permitted the Lynx to penetrate the red zone.
That allowed the T-birds to bounce back from a dose of savage scheduling — their first two league games, both losses, came to defending state champion Service and defending runner-up South, which are a combined 5-0 in league and generally considered the two best teams in the CIC.
“I don’t lie to these guys, I try to be honest with them,’’ said East coach Jeff Trotter. “I told them, 'We put ourselves in a hole.’ And, especially with some tie-breakers that could come up, this game was huge.’’
East’s imposing offensive and defensive lines carried the evening.
“We’re used to it,’’ said T-bird lineman Tusa Tanuvasa. “Lot of hard work, and that hard work pays off. Lots of studying and work on technique. We know were a good physical team.’’
Behind an offensive line that routinely controlled territory, East running back Jakiel Bell racked 113 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, and Diego Su’a Te’o gained 76 yards on 18 carries.
East led 15-0 at intermission after holding Dimond to 19 yards total offense in the first half, when it sacked Lynx quarterback Samuel Liaga four times.
East’s Osa Atiifale Jr. returned the second-half kickoff 30 yards to set up the T-birds at their own 39. On the first play from scrimmage, Bell took a hand-off around the left side, deftly slipped around a blitzing defender, used a seal block from fullback Ed Jones and a down-field block from wideout Jarred Laws, lit his afterburners and blew 61 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown.
“Our line did a really good job,’’ Bell said. “I trusted them a lot.’’
Bell in preseason ran the 40-yard dash in a hand-timed 4.59 seconds, though it is worth noting that time came on East’s uneven grass field in poor weather. East coaches have been encouraging him to keep his moves to a minimum and just get upfield to use his speed and exploit the defense.
Also, Trotter felt Bell was due to bust a big run.
“It seemed like he was close to breaking one in the first half, so why not stick with him?’’ Trotter said.
Dimond’s Armani Tufaga delivered a strong all-around game for a team that opened its conference schedule against Chugiak and Eagle River, which are a combined 0-5 in league. He rushed 13 times for 63 yards, returned two kickoffs for 58 yards, blocked a punt and made two tackles for losses.
But in this rare Thursday night game designed to showcase teams on an evening no other teams were playing — weather snuffed that before a scattering of fans and umbrellas — East was on top from the outset.
A snap over the head of Dimond punter Chance Runyon on the game’s first possession turned into a safety for East when Jeremiah Ieremia tackled Runyon in the end zone. East later in the quarter used Atiifale’s 7-yard run to cap an eight-play, 47-yard drive for an 8-0 lead.
East pushed its cushion to 15-0 midway through the second quarter when it drove 80 yards in 11 plays. Su’a Te’o closed the drive with a 9-yard run.
But Ieremia, a critical part of both East lines, suffered an apparent knee injury on Su’a Te’o’s touchdown run and didn’t play the rest of the game.
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Dimond 0 0 0 0 — 0
East 8 7 6 0 — 21
East — Safety, Runyon tackled in end zone by Ieremia, 9:50.
East — Atiifale 7 run (kick failed), 1:20
East — Su’a Te’o 9 run (Gingras kick), 6:37
East — Bell 61 run (kick failed), 11:43
First downs 7 20
Rushes-yards 36-90 46-196
Passing yards 48 79
Return yards 98 174
Passes 6-10-1 6-18-0
Punts 4-31.3 1-33.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 4-3
Penalties-yards 13-109 4-20
RUSHING — Dimond: Tufaga 13-63, Vasai 6-54, Coleman 2-16, Barrett 1-12, St. Liaga 1-4, Jaworski 1-4, Unga 2-2, Pili 1-1, Team 1-(-29), Sa. Liaga 7-(-38). East: Bell 10-113; Su’a Te’o 18-76; Atiifale 7-23, Jones 2-11, Thompson 1-4, Wolfe 2-(-2), Vanilau 5-(-15), Team 1-(-14).
PASSING — Dimond: Sa. Liaga 6-10-1—48. East: Vanilau 6-18-0—79.
RECEIVING — Dimond: Brady 2-14, Pili 1-19, Lauwers 1-10, Vasai 1-6, Tufaga 1-(-1). East: Laws 4-47, Bell 1-16, Su’a Te’o 1-16.