Just two games into the high school football season, Dimond High’s defense has delivered.
The unit wasn’t at fault in its season-opening loss to South -- it surrendered just 177 yards total offense -- and Saturday night it smeared its fingerprints all over a Cook Inlet Conference 26-13 victory over defending state large-school champion and top-ranked West.
Dimond forced five turnovers (three interceptions, two fumbles), generated six sacks and helped the Lynx built an insurmountable four-touchdown lead through three quarters at Anchorage Football Stadium.
All that, combined with West’s propensity for penalties, kept the Eagles’ high-octane offense sputtering and its senior quarterback, Sam Wedin, and his receiving corps, from consistently finding their rhythm.
“Just determined,’’ said Dimond defensive lineman Isaiah Pili. “We know they have a high-powered offense. Our defense is fast -- a lot of our defense is on the track team.
“Sam is one helluva quarterback. If he sits in the pocket, he’s going to make plays. We had to get some pressure on him to create some disturbance.’’
Playmakers on Dimond’s defense were abundant.
Pili forced a fumble and recorded a sack. Rafa Zavala bagged two interceptions, and Romi Zavala recovered two fumbles. Dominick Sipili scored a sack, as did Cedarian Brunell and Tyrell Fereti, who also shared another sack with Ikaika Faamasino.
And senior Timothy Schell delivered a damaging blow as time expired in the first half, picking off a Wedin pass and returning it 95 yards for his first varsity touchdown and a 20-0 lead.
All that came without strong safety Jordan Tufaga, who sat out with the flu.
“We know this team is backed by our defense,’’ Schell said. “When we get our offense rolling, we’ll be a complete team.’’
West coach Tim Davis conceded his players made some mistakes, but said the weight of the loss was carried by the coaching staff, which he said lost the battle with Dimond’s Chris Borst and his staff.
“Dimond’s staff prepared great,’’ Davis said. “They coached their kids to strip the ball, they coached their kids not to give up on a play, and they had their kids fired up and mad to come out and play a great football game.’’
Rafa Zavala’s interception of West’s P.J. Seui, who occasionally plays quarterback for Wedin, on the first possession of the game triggered J.J. Tanuvasa’s 14-yard touchdown run. Pili’s second-quarter sack forced a West punt that preceded Rocky Vasai’s 45-yard touchdown run, which earned Dimond a 13-0 lead. Schell next gave the Lynx a powerful hit of momentum with his long return as time expired on the first half.
“If I was on the sideline, I’d have said, ‘Just bat it down,’ ’’ Schell said. “But I was like, ‘Let’s go.’ I ran as hard as I could.’’
Tanuvasa added a 5-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter to boost the lead to 26-0. Vasai rolled for a game-high 119 yards on 16 carries, which helped Dimond bounce back from its 20-0 loss to South.
West got a 16-yard touchdown pass from Wedin to Shanai Leon as the third quarter expired and a 1-yard touchdown run from Seui -- too little, too late.
“The kids were resilient and played really hard,’’ Borst said. “I thought, ‘Mentally, if we don’t win, where are our kids’ heads going to be?’ I know we have a good football team, but will they?
“We beat the No. 1 team.’’
West opened the season with a 28-6 nonconference win over Palmer, but that turned into a somber victory when promising receiver Lazono Martin -- two first-half touchdowns -- was lost for the season to a knee injury.
“I’m not at all happy -- let’s be clear -- but the despair of last week is not here,’’ Davis said.
Dimond 7 13 6 0 — 26
West 0 0 6 7 — 13
Dimond -- Tanuvasa 14 run (Brunell kick), 8:52.
Dimond -- Vasai 45 run (kick blocked), 3:45.
Dimond -- Schell 95 interception return (Brunell kick), :00.
Dimond -- Tanuvasa 5 run (kick blocked), :51.
West -- Leon 16 pass from Wedin (kick failed), :00
West -- Seui 1 run (Metcalf kick), 2:54.
RUSHING -- Dimond: Vasai 17-119, Tanuvasa 14-41, Ro. Zavala 3-16, Brunell 2-7, Schell 1-2, Pilcher 1-(-1), Maga 3-(-1). West: Tagalu 10-40, Murchinson 4-26, Seui 4-(-7), Wedin 8-(-22).
PASSING -- Dimond: Maga 3-8-3—74. West: Wedin 18-34-2—231, Seui 0-1-1—0.
RECEIVING -- Dimond: Ra. Zavala 1-35, Brunell 1-23, Schell 1-13. West: Leon 7-64, Strong 6-105, Elliott 3-46, Turek 1-21, Murchinson 1-3.