For much of Friday night, what Dimond and Bartlett delivered was as much a gift exchange as a high school football game.
Between myriad turnovers, plays for negative yardage and enough kicking-game blunders to give both special-teams coaches aneurysms, it appeared a decent bet the winner might be decided by which Cook Inlet Conference team tied a bow on victory for the other.
But Dimond finally seized success in the fourth quarter, when it drove 63 yards on eight plays and received Elijah Pili's 26-yard touchdown run on fourth down to capture a 13-12 win that put the Lynx on the brink of a spot in the state playoffs.
Pili scored both Dimond touchdowns -- his 4-yard run in the third quarter generated a 7-6 lead -- and was as relieved as anyone when his team won its homecoming at Dimond Alumni Field to improve to 3-2 overall and 3-1 in conference.
"Really, we just never gave up,'' Pili said. "We just kept fighting.''
And that was no small feat of determination after a first half in which Dimond's six offensive possessions ended miserably: Punt, snap over the punter's head, interception, botched punt, lost fumble, interception.
"What did we have, eight turnovers,'' said Dimond coach Chris Borst, who was only off by one -- the Lynx committed seven. "(Bartlett) deserved to win. Our defense, again, saved us.''
Bartlett (0-5, 0-4 CIC) entered the game having failed to score a point in three previous CIC games. But the Golden Bears moved into the red zone five times in a rainy, wind-swept first half and finally broke through as time expired for intermission. After Farikas Brock returned an interception of Samuel Liaga's ill-advised pass 31 yards to the Dimond 19-yard line, Michael Heckmann scored on a 19-yard run three plays later.
Bartlett's sideline erupted.
"Did we just win the Super Bowl?'' Bartlett coached Daniel Esparza asked, deadpan.
No, but hard to not to feel good for the Golden Bears, considering they went three and half games -- 14 quarters and 168 minutes of football -- before scoring a point in a league game. Alas, for Bartlett, it couldn't get the ball on the tee for the extra-point attempt, so its lead remained 6-0.
Pili's touchdown in the third quarter tied the game. Dimond took a 7-6 lead when neophyte sophomore kicker and first-year football player Jack Sedor, who is better known for his skills in what the rest of the world calls football -- soccer -- made the extra point.
Brock regained the lead for Bartlett when he wrestled away Zyrelle Jones' 25-yard touchdown pass from a Lynx defender for a 12-7 lead with 6 minutes, 50 seconds left. Bartlett's two-point conversion pass failed.
Still, Dimond's defense, spearheaded by linebacker Tonga Unga, held Bartlett to just 130 yards total offense.
"Our kids were flying all over the field and hitting,'' Borst said.
With homecoming king Armani Tufaga racking 101 of Dimond's 182 yards total offense -- he rushed 12 times for 77 yards and caught one pass for 24 -- the Lynx roared back on their ensuing drive. Tufaga's 24-yard catch and run off a Liaga scramble provided a pivotal first down.
Facing fourth-and-2 at the Bartlett 26, Pili ran untouched through the left side of the line for the game-winning touchdown with 4:01 remaining.
"My linemen made a hole anyone could have run through,'' Pili said. "Two people could have run through it.''
Payton Lauwers' interception of Jones snuffed Bartlett's next possession. And though Bartlett regained the ball on its own 31 with 36.4 seconds left, Dimond smothered the Golden Bears.
At 3-1 in conference, Dimond sits fourth in a league that earns four spots in the state playoffs. But its three wins have come against Bartlett, Eagle River and Chugiak, which are a combined 0-11 in conference.
And, just as Friday night was a struggle for the Lynx, they awake this morning knowing things only get severely more difficult the rest of the way.
The Lynx finish the seven-game CIC regular season against West, Service and South, which are a combined 11-0 in league games.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Bartlett 0 6 0 6 -- 12
Dimond 0 0 7 6 -- 13
Bartlett -- Heckmann 19 run (run failed), :00.
Dimond -- Pili 4 run (Sedor kick), 7:18.
Bartlett -- Brock 17 pass from Jones (pass failed), 6:50.
Dimond -- Pili 26 run (run failed), 4:01.
First downs 10 12
Rushes-yards 35-(-13) 40-86
Passing yards 143 96
Return yards 74 38
Passes 15-36-1 8-14-2
Punts 2-24.0 1-28.0
Fumbles-lost 3-1 6-3
Penalties-yards 2-25 7-50
RUSHING -- Bartlett: Heckmann 5-21, Jones 17-14, Honore 1-3, Parker 4-1, Stalker 1-0, Irving 5-(-25), Team 2-(-27). Dimond: Tufaga 12-77, Pili 7-28, Unga 4-3, St. Liaga 3-4, Barrett 1-3, Coleman 2-0, Sa. Liaga 6-0, Chong 2-(-3), Jaworski 1-(-1), Zavala 1-(-8), Team 1-(-17).
PASSING -- Bartlett: Jones 15-36-1--143. Dimond: Sa. Liaga 7-13-2--96, Runyon 1-(-5).
RECEIVING -- Bartlett: Rowland 5-19, Reynolds 3-29, Irving 3-18, Stalker 1-30, Brock 1-25, Parker 1-16, Honore 1-7. Dimond: Brady 3-47, Tufaga 1-24, Barrett 1-14, Pili 1-6, Vasai 1-0, Faamasino 1-(-5).Photos: East vs. West football
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News