Anchorage — At 1:30 p.m. Friday, Bartlett High football coach Daniel Esparza discovered through his players that one of his running backs had suffered an allergic reaction to hair dye, further reducing his already thin backfield.
Around 2:50 p.m., Esparza texted Isaiah Masina and asked the senior safety to swing by his classroom.
At 3:30 p.m., Masina arrived in Esparza's classroom, where the coach went to the white board and proceeded to give Masina a "crash course'' on the Bartlett offense in general, and his duties as a running back in particular.
By 9:30 p.m., Masina was a star.
Masina, who had not logged a single carry all season, turned 18 rushes into 124 yards and the game-winning touchdown that not only spearheaded Bartlett's first victory of the season, a 14-7 Cook Inlet Conference homecoming win over winless East, but snapped the school's 17-game losing streak dating back to September 2011.
Bartlett's victory at Anchorage Football Stadium also marked its first win under second-year coach Esparza and earned the Golden Bears the Eastside Boot, the trophy at stake in the annual Bartlett-East game. The trophy serves as a memorial to Aanooalii "Auno'' Filoialli, the all-state defensive end for East who died in a car accident in the summer of 2002, and the teams gather at midfield afterward for the trophy presentation.
Bartlett's defense, which has buoyed it through difficult times, three times stopped East on downs, including a pivotal denial on fourth-and-goal from the 1 as the T-birds marched on a potential game-tying drive with less than three minutes to play.
Still, Masina was the man, and his performance proved a principal reason Bartlett's Nike Tuufuli enjoyed the task of dumping the contents of a water cooler on Esparza as the Golden Bears drained the clock with 20 seconds left and East out of timeouts.
"I really didn't think I was going to have a game like that,'' Masina said. "I really thought I'd struggle. I haven't done anything, offensive-wise. (Esparza) literally coached me up for two hours.
"All the props go to the 'O' line. I just saw the holes and made cuts.''
Masina said Esparza's quick classroom tutorial was thorough and intense.
"He was just bashing my head in with plays,'' Masina said. "It was like school, after school.''
Masina's 6-yard run on Bartlett's first play from scrimmage, Esparza said, was the first time he'd ever seen Masina carry the ball against competition. Masina blazed 24 yards on the next play. In all, he accounted for six of Bartlett's 10 first downs, and he delivered a 34-yard kickoff return.
Oh, and Masina played defense, as usual -- difference-making defense.
With the game tied 7-7 midway through the third quarter, Masina from his safety position ranged far to his left to intercept a Clayton Washburn pass on the sideline and give Bartlett the ball at the East 46. Seven plays later, the speedy Masina, who proved adept at slashing through holes and running north and south, scored on a 4-yard run on fourth-and-1 to furnish the Golden Bears a 14-7 lead.
Bartlett (1-5, 1-4 CIC) earned a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when cornerback Deionte Love sniffed out a wide-receiver screen, jumped the route and returned the pick 45 yards for a touchdown. Bartlett, which hurt itself with 12 penalties for 136 yards and three turnovers, even made a touchdown somewhat counterproductive. Love was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for celebrating during his return and a teammate was whistled for a personal foul after Love crossed the goal line, which is how Bartlett subsequently ended up kicking off from its 17.
East tied the game 7-7 in the final minute of the first half, when Matthew Schnellbaecher scored on a 3-yard run to cap an 11-play, 79-yard drive.
The T-Birds (0-6, 0-5 CIC) added a new wrinkle to their offense by running the option often. Washburn carried 22 times for 51 yards.
"We tried to give them something they didn't know about,'' Washburn said.
Trailing 14-7, East reeled off a long fourth-quarter drive, twice converting on fourth down, before it faced fourth-and-goal from the Bartlett 1. Washburn again ran to the right, but Bartlett's Pio Tyrell stacked East's line, Stephen Veatch provided containment to force Washburn inside and Ricky Helme tackeled Washburn for a two-yard loss.
"I told my huddle, 'This is our season, fight every last inch, fight through,' '' Washburn said. "We just didn't get it in. We tried to play for our seniors and our alumni.''
When Bartlett took over possession, Esparza called Masina's number five straight times to drain the clock.
"He just played like a monster,'' Esparza said. "You go with the hot hand. We haven't had that around here much, so we stuck with him.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
East 0 7 0 0 -- 7
Bartlett 7 0 7 0 -- 14
Bartlett -- Love 45 interception return (Belgarde kick), :14
East -- Schnellbaecher 3 run (Andrew kick), :39.
Bartlett -- Masina 4 run (Belgarde kick), 3:22.
First downs 13 10
Rushes-yards 44-122 41-181
Passing yards 53 0
Return yards 11 93
Passes 4-13-2 0-4-0
Punts 3-39.0 1-24.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 6-3
Penalties-yards 8-51 12-136
RUSHING -- East: Washburn 22-51, Schnellbaecher 6-32, Lealoa 6-29, Hawk 7-8, Vanderpool 1-2, Thompson 1-2, Pili 1-(-2). Bartlett: Masina 18-124, Irving 8-47, Hoffman 1-22, Pace-Alexander 1-4, Kenney 6-(-1), Jones 2-(-2), Belgarde 5-(-11).
PASSING -- East: Washburn 4-13-2--53. Bartlett: Belgard 0-4-0--0.
RECEIVING -- East: Pili 2-16, Berry 1-21, Hawk 1-16.