After Dimond beat Bartlett 34-22 on a rain-soaked Dimond Alumni Field, a teary-eyed John Jessen gave hugs to his players Saturday night, having coached his last game for the Golden Bears.
Jessen, who owns the most coaching wins in Bartlett history, said he won't rule out coaching again, but said he needs a break.
"It's just time," Jessen said. "Whoever gets the job after me, I'll be behind him a thousand percent."
Jessen earned his 79th victory earlier this season against Eagle River, moving him past Bob Swatosch for the most wins as a Bartlett coach, but the Golden Bears only won one more game the rest of the season and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.
Dimond (4-4, 3-4 CIC) and Bartlett (3-5, 2-5 CIC) were both eliminated from state playoff contention last weekend, so Saturday's game was meaningless in that regard. But it did feature the top two rushers in the conference, and Dimond's Nathan Stephens made a strong attempt to catch Bartlett's Trent Anthony.
Stephens came into the game as the second-leading rusher in the CIC and rattled off a game-high 227 yards to finish with 957 yards on the season.
But Anthony, who led the CIC in rushing for most of the season, averaging 10 yards per carry coming into Saturday's game, ran for 104 yards and finished with 1,072, more than 100 yards ahead of Stephens.
Stephens got his team off to a fast start, shouldering the bulk of the load on Dimond's first scoring drive and punching in a 2-yard score. On the first play of Bartlett's next possession, Stephens, who also plays linebacker for the Lynx, recovered a Bartlett fumble and ran it to the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown.
Stephens kept pouring it on in the first half, busting loose for two second-quarter touchdown runs, including one from 61 yards out.
"I just came out and did my thing," he said.
Stephens said the 34-point halftime lead combined with the fact neither team is playoff-bound may have contributed to a second-half letdown.
"We might have gotten a little complacent," he said. "But what are you gonna do in a consolation game?"
Anthony said the Golden Bears have made a habit of starting slow this season. "If we could just play like we do in the second half, in the first half, we'd be alright," he said.
Bartlett shut out Dimond in the second half and Anthony provided the game's biggest highlight when he closed the scoring with an 85-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Still, Anthony didn't feel good about closing his senior season with a loss.
"It's sad, because we are better than our 3-5 record," he said.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
Bartlett 0 0 14 8 -- 22
Dimond 13 21 0 0 -- 34
Dimond -- 2 run Stephens (Corral kick), 7:37.
Dimond -- 20 fumble return Stephens (kick block), 7:25.
Dimond -- 61 run Stephens (Corral kick), 4:55
Dimond -- 4 run Stephens (Corral kick), :36.6.
Dimond -- 44 run Hines (Corral kick), 0:00.
Bartlett -- 2 run Brons (pass fail), 9:44.
Bartlett -- 26 run Anthony (Anthony run), 2:40.
Bartlett -- 85 punt return Anthony (Belgarde run), 1:56
First downs 14 16
Rushes-yards 43-228 47-332
Passing yards 34 15
Return yards 146 50
Passes 3-6-0 1-4-0
Punts 1-38.0 2-35.0
Fumbles-lost 4-3 4-2
Penalties-yards 4-27 6-45
RUSHING -- Bartlett: Anthony 16-104; Parker 8-65; Honore 8-31; Brons 5-18; Belgarde 4-6; Heckman 2-4. Dimond: Stephens 29-227; Hines 3-38; Pili 6-19; Griffith 2-18; Tufaga 3-15; Chong 1-6; Pulu 1-5 Lomu 2-4; Smith 1-0.
PASSING -- Bartlett: Belgarde 3-6-0--34. Dimond: Hines 1-4-0--15.
RECEIVING -- Bartlett: Honore 2-25; Anthony 1-9. Dimond: Smith 1-15.
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News