All the Dimond Lynx needed to do to clinch a spot in the state football playoffs was complete the unenviable task of knocking off defending champion South in front of their home crowd Friday night.
Until the second half got going, it looked like the Lynx might pull it off.
They played with a good mixture of grit and skill and were a chip-shot field goal away from holding a lead in the second quarter, but South was equally gritty and skillful and was able to capitalize on Dimond errors for a 42-14 Cook Inlet Conference win at Dimond Alumni Field.
"In the second half, our defense showed up and offense played their game," said South's Mervin Taha, who blocked Dimond's short field-goal attempt late in the first half and scored a defensive touchdown in the fourth quarter. "We executed every play in the second half."
Taha's big field goal block was the turning point in the game. A South fumble set up Dimond inside the red zone, and three plays later the Lynx lined up to kick a 25-yard field goal. The kick looked good, Taha said, but he jumped up in perfect line with it and barely touched it with his forearm, sending the ball spinning to the right.
"That was a game-changer for us," Taha said. "We got really hyped up."
South (5-2, 5-1 CIC) ended its ensuing possession with a 64-yard touchdown from Alec Valdez to Alain Devoe with 1:22 to go in the half for a 21-14 lead at the break.
Despite the sour turn of events for Dimond (3-4, 3-3 CIC), the Lynx didn't get down at halftime.
"Everybody was thinking 'We're still in this, keep our heads up,' " said Dimond's Marquez Buster, who recorded 100 receiving yards.
Dimond got the ball to start the second half, but things went bad for the Lynx right away. Their first possession ended with a botched punt that set up South on the Dimond 12-yard line.
The Wolverines were guilty of a big mistake later in the quarter, but it proved to be a good mistake -- they fumbled the ball on the goal line, but offensive lineman Ryan Wilhelm recovered it in the end zone to give South a 28-14 lead with 8:13 to play in the third quarter.
South cemented the win with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, one on a five-yard scamper from Justice Augafa and the last one on a 12-yard fumble return from Taha.
The game started with a bang for the Wolverines, who scored two touchdowns and led 14-0 before some fans had even arrived.
Both scores came courtesy of Andrew West, who led all rushers with 85 yards and returned the opening kickoff 95 yards for a score. West scored again a few minutes later on a seven-yard run, after a Kory Cain interception ended Dimond's first possession.
Dimond fought back to tie it 14-14 on two touchdown passes from Jeremiah Maga to Buster. The first was a 56-yard dart over the middle with less than 30 seconds to play in the first quarter and the second was a pretty seven-yard pass to the back, left corner of the end zone.
"I was just trying to win on Senior Night for the seniors, but we just couldn't do it in the second half," Buster said. "We got tired."
South was already assured a playoff spot coming into Friday's game. Dimond will have another shot at clinching a spot when it plays top-ranked Service next weekend.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
South 14 7 7 14 -- 42
Dimond 7 7 0 X -- 14
South -- Andrew West 95 kickoff return (Eyob Imlach kick), 11:45
South -- West 7 run (Imlach kick), 9:23
Dimond -- Marquez Buster 56 pass from Jeremiah Maga (Jack Sedor kick), :25.8.
Dimond -- Buster 7 pass from Maga (Sedor kick), 4:31
South -- Alain Devoe 64 pass from Alec Valdez (Imlach kick), 1:22
South -- fumble recovery in end zone (Imlach kick) 8:13
South -- Justice Augafa 5 run (Imlach kick), 9:59
South -- Mervin Taha 12 fumble recovery (Imlach kick), 7:27
First downs 13 16
Rushes-yards 37-138 25-79
Passing yards 123 225
Return yards 114 62
Passes 7-7-0 13-28-2
Punts 4-29.5 3-24.7
Fumbles-lost 4-1 4-2
Penalties-yards 11-105 8-65
RUSHING -- South: West 9-85; Augafa 9-35; Valdez 15-7; Hoover 1-6; Mormon 1-5; Imlach 2-0. Dimond: Vasai 9-36; Tufaga 6-23; Coleman 6-12; Bratcher 2-5; Tanuvasa 2-3.
PASSING -- South: Valdez 7-7-0--123. Dimond: Maga 13-28-2--225
RECEIVING -- South: Devoe 4-113; Ottom 1-10; West 2-0. Dimond: Buster 5-100; Zavala 3-62; Vasai 3-53; Bratcher 1-5; Tanuvasa 1-5.