The stout defense that has been a staple of South High football was found wanting last season, when the Wolverines proved malleable and were eliminated in the first round of the state playoffs.
Saturday afternoon, South furnished evidence its defense could be back in form.
South bagged three turnovers, scored one touchdown and set up another on the way to a 20-0 Cook Inlet Conference victory over Dimond at Anchorage Football Stadium.
For what it’s worth, South entered the season opener ranked No. 2 in the Alaska Sports Broadcasting Network’s poll of large-school teams. Dimond, coming off its first playoff appearance since 2008, entered at No. 3.
The Wolverines limited the Lynx to 139 yards total offense, including just eight yards in the first half. Only twice did the Lynx drive into Wolverine territory. And the Wolverines never permitted the Lynx entry into the red zone.
“Coach (John Lewis) has a saying: Keep our foot on the gas pedal,’’ said linebacker Alain Devoe, who delivered a sack and a forced fumble, and dropped an interception. “We keep going, and you saw what we did today when we did that.’’
A season ago, South’s defense wasn’t punishing, nor did it swarm to the ball like usual. Palmer exploited those shortcomings for 285 rushing yards in the playoffs. All that, Lewis said, led to talk that South’s defense wasn’t all that.
“A lot of teams were generous enough to tweet our guys and tell them how soft they were,’’ Lewis said. “Our guys kept their mouth shut. But we won’t accept that.’’
Defensive back Nicholas Settle, whose 48-yard fumble return accounted for the only touchdown of the first half, said Lewis has demanded the Wolverines assert themselves defensively.
“He’s prepping us to be aggressive and to be old-school,’’ Settle said.
Settle’s fumble return late in the first half, set up by Devoe’s hit to jar loose the ball, pushed South’s lead to 10-0. The Wolverines opened the scoring on Oskar Seglem’s 27-yard field goal.
Meanwhile, the Wolverines permitted Dimond those eight yards on 22 first-half snaps from scrimmage.
Dimond didn’t do itself any favors. On the drive that led to Seglem’s field goal, the Lynx committed four penalties, which accounted for two-thirds of South’s 47 yards gained on the possession. The Lynx were penalized 13 times for 121 yards of back-tracking.
Seglem’s 28-yard field goal with 3:31 left in the third quarter bumped South’s advantage to 13-0.
Even when Dimond finally got its offense untracked in the third quarter, South found a way to keep the Lynx in check. Dimond marched 14 plays before linebacker Andrew Jarrell intercepted Jeremiah Maga and returned it 59 yards to the Dimond 24. The Lynx had nothing to show for 8:05 of possession.
“We just stayed poised and made a play,’’ Settle said.
Two plays later, Settle capped the scoring with a 22-yard touchdown run.
Settle, a senior, is listed on South’s roster as a defensive back (DB) and running back (RB), and also as an ATH -- that stands for athlete. He caught three passes for 36 yards and returned a kickoff 46 yards to open the second half.
South’s Justice Augafa led all rushers with 80 yards on 11 carries.
Dimond’s Jordan Tufaga rushed for 35 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 27 yards. Dimond’s defense played well, holding South to 177 yards total offense.
South’s defense, though, was easily the most impressive unit in the game. Devoe said that’s because the Wolverines demand much of themselves.
“This year, we’ve really toughened up,’’ he said.
Dimond 0 0 0 0 — 0
South 0 10 3 7 — 20
South — Seglem 27 FG, 4:42.
South — Settle 48 fumble return (Seglem kick), 1:05.
South — Seglem 28 FG, 3:31.
South — Settle 22 run (Seglem kick), 7:26.
RUSHING — Dimond: Tufaga 7-35, Tanuvasa 10-34, Schell 4-9, Ro. Zavalqa 1-0, Maga 9-(-9). South: Augafa 11-80, Settle 10-15, Cook 8-14, Hoover 2-1, Thompson 6-(-15).
PASSING — Dimond: Maga 4-12-1—59, Schell 1-2-0—. South: Thompson 5-9-0—49, Settle 1-1-0—33.
RECEIVING — Dimond: Tufaga 3-27, Parker 1-24, Hendrickson 1-19. South: Settle 3-36, Augafa 2-13, Devoe 1-33.