Anchorage — Two weeks ago, Dimond High's defense surrendered 386 yards total offense to Eagle River, which hung 36 points on the Lynx and sent them packing.
Dimond nose guard Isaiah Pili said that result left him and his teammates disappointed and embarrassed. Dimond lineman Baily Hartman said the loss, which dropped the football team to 0-2, was a wake-up call that felt like a slap to the face.
Since then, Dimond's defense has delivered a dynamic turnaround. Friday night, the Lynx permitted Bartlett just 10 yards total offense in the second half and posted its second straight shutout with a 16-0 Cook Inlet Conference victory at Anchorage Football Stadium.
The victory, which improved Dimond to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in conference, came after last week's 6-0 win over Chugiak during which the Lynx held the Mustangs to just 127 yards total offense.
Dimond coach Chris Borst said defensive coordinator Fred Slone made some adjustments that altered angles for the defense, and the success that immediately followed against Chugiak instilled the defense with confidence it lacked after losses to Lathrop and Eagle River.
"Now, they know they can play,'' Borst said. "Before, I'm not sure they believed.''
The transformation, Hartman said, has buoyed the Lynx.
"It's kind of amazing to me,'' he said. "I know our defensive line is getting into the backfield more, and we're wrapping up with our tackles.''
Something as seemingly simple as getting ball carriers to the ground at first opportunity has helped generate the turnaround.
"That's basic fundamental football,'' Borst said. "Maybe we were looking for the big play, the SportsCenter highlight, instead of playing fundamental football. Our gang-tackling tonight was fantastic.''
Pili made several tackles for negative yardage, linebacker Rocky Vasai delivered two sacks, defensive back Cedarian Brunell provided tight coverage, broke up passes and made big hits, Marquez Buster and Jordan Tufaga intercepted passes, and Christian Bratcher recovered a fumble.
While Bartlett composed drives of 13 plays and 14 plays on two first-half possessions, the Lynx kept the Golden Bears (0-4, 0-3 CIC) at bay and extended Bartlett's losing streak, which stretches back to September 2011, to 16 games. Late in the first half, Bartlett drove inside the Dimond 5-yard line before the Lynx defense forced the Golden Bears to turn the ball over on downs.
"Kids stepped up tonight,'' Pili said. "Lots of guys made plays.''
Granted, Chugiak and Bartlett, the teams the Lynx have shut down, are a combined 1-4 in CIC games. Still, the Lynx have yielded just 277 yards total offense and zero points in the last two games.
Vasai kick-started the offense midway through the second quarter when he latched onto a Jeremiah Maga pass on a crossing route from left to right, then sprinted across the field and up the right sideline for a 36-yard touchdown.
Maga in the third quarter lofted a perfectly placed bomb to C.J. Parker down the left sideline -- Parker delicately tight-roped the sideline -- for a 56-yard touchdown.
Maga's 138 passing yards were supplemented by Kelley Coleman's game-high 68 yards rushing on 10 carries. J.J. Tanuvasa covered 53 yards on his 10 carries and Vasai added 35 yards rushing on 10 carries.
Brunell added a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. He banged a 44-yarder off the crossbar in the first half, and that was after a Bartlett player got his fingers on the ball at the line.
Bartlett, which played without six players who were serving suspensions after a brawl in last week's loss to Service, was further plagued by injuries -- receiver D'Coursey Reynolds was taken off the field on a stretcher as a precaution, which delayed the game about 20 minutes in the second half.
The Golden Bears, who got 70 rushing yards out of Ethan Falaniko in the first half, when they accumulated 140 yards offense, again struggled to complete drives.
"It's a riddle we've been trying to solve since last year,'' said Bartlett coach Daniel Esparza. "Last year, we could move the ball from the 20 to the 20. I don't know if, when the field shrinks, we get tight, or what.''
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Dimond 0 7 6 3 -- 16
Bartlett 0 0 0 0 -- 0
Dimond -- Vasai 36 pass from Maga (Brunell kick), 5:20.
Dimond -- Parker 56 pass from Maga (run failed), 8:26.
Dimond -- FG 27 Brunell, 7:32.
First downs 15 13
Rushes-yards 41-162 37-73
Passing yards 138 73
Return yards 70 37
Passes 8-15-1 9-25-2
Punts 3-38.3 5-36.0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 10-95 3-30
RUSHING -- Dimond: Coleman 10-68, Tanuvasa 10-53, Vasai 10-35, Tufaga 5-20, Bratcher 2-1, Romi Zavala 1-0, Maga 3-(-15). Bartlett: Falaniko 15-66, No. 35 3-13, Belgarde 1-4, No. 37 1-4, Irving 1-2, Sappa 5-(-2), Hoffman 2-(-10), Jones 9-(-4).
PASSING -- Dimond: Maga 8-15-1--138. Bartlett: Jones 8-19-1--62, Sappa 1-5-0--15, No. 37 0-2-2--0.
RECEIVING -- Dimond: Buster 3-18, Parker 1-56, Vasai 1-36, Coleman 1-19, Tanuvasa 1-7, Bratcher 1-2. Bartlett: Kenney 3-39, Irving 3-5, Reynolds 2-23, Hoffman 1-10.