Dimond defense dominates in win over West Valley

Matt Tunseth

Many hands made for light work in Dimond’s dominant 29-7 nonconference football win over West Valley on Friday night, and that was no more true than on the game’s signature play, a 58-yard fumble return that epitomized the Lynx’s team-first mentality.

With West Valley trailing 16-7 late in the third quarter, the Wolfpack faced a crucial fourth-and-1 at the Dimond 43-yard line. The Wolfpack tried a quarterback sneak, and that’s when Dimond’s do-it-all captain, senior lineman Isaiah Pili, stepped in. Pili stripped the ball from the Wolfpack ballcarrier and began stumbling toward the end zone, then alertly flipped the ball to teammate Rocky Vasai. Vasai did the rest, sprinting 58 yards to put the Lynx up 23-7.

“I thought I was going to get caught, so I thought, ‘Why not give it to one of the fastest kids on the team, Rocky Vasai?’” Pili recalled after the game.

Dimond coach Chris Borst said he wasn’t surprised to see the senior’s heads-up play.

“The motor never stops with him,” Borst said of Pili, who played both offense and defense. “That was pretty unselfish of him to give it to someone else.”

Unfortunately for Pili, he may have actually been able to score on the play himself -- he was the first player to congratulate Vasai upon reaching the end zone.

“I was a little disappointed,” Pili said. “But hey, we got a touchdown.”

Vasai, who also scored on an 8-yard touchdown run, said the play was a good example of Dimond’s team-first mentality.

“I don’t see it as me scoring, I see it as the whole team scoring,” he said.

Although no individual player rushed for more than 74 yards for the Lynx, Dimond piled up 172 yards on the ground, using a methodical attack to wear down the Wolfpack. J.J. Tanuvasa led the ground attack with 74 yards on 11 carries and Dimond received at least 11 yards rushing from six different players.

But it was the stingy Lynx defense that truly shined, holding the Wolfpack (0-3 overall, 0-1 Railbelt Conference) to just 76 yards rushing and 168 yards of total offense. West Valley, which entered the contest averaging 27.5 points per game, managed just eight first downs.

“We flew around out there tonight,” said Borst, whose team improved to 2-1 overall. “We were real aggressive and real physical, and that’s what’s going to save us.”

The game did feature a down note for Dimond, which lost senior wideout/cornerback Romi Zavala to a lower back injury in the first half. Zavala left in an ambulance but had movement in his extremities and appeared to be alert and talking to trainers as he left the stadium. Borst said he didn't know the senior's condition, but hoped it wasn't serious. 

"I'm going to go find out right now," he said.

Dimond opened the game with a crisp 10-play, 72-yard drive, finishing things off with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Maga to Rafa Zavala with 5:49 left in the first quarter.

A Dimond fumble deep in Lynx territory set up the lone West Valley score, a 23-yard touchdown run by Xavier Jones that turned out to be the Wolfpack’s longest play from scrimmage. The touchdown put West Valley up 7-6 to end the first quarter, but it was all Lynx from that point on as Dimond scored 23 unanswered points.

The Lynx took the lead for good midway through the second quarter on a 36-yard field goal by Cedarian Brunell, and Vasai’s touchdown scamper made it 16-7 at the half.

Maga added a 1-yard touchdown run with 7:39 left in the game to provide the final margin of victory.

The win was the second in a row for Dimond (2-1 overall, 1-1 Cook Inlet Conference), which will resume its CIC schedule next Friday at 7 p.m. at Chugiak.

In order to keep the good times rolling, Pili said the team must stay confident while not getting too cocky.

“We have to stay focused and not get big-headed,” he said.

Borst said he thinks his veteran team -- Dimond has 22 seniors on the roster -- will be able to do just that.  

“We have a lot of faith in each other right now,” he said.

Game notes: The Lynx broke their postgame huddle by recognizing their injured teammate with a loud chant of "Romi!"...Dimond outgained West Valley 172-59 in the first half...Dimond's defense is allowing just 13.3 points per game this season. The Lynx, who lost 20-0 to No. 1 South in Week 1, have outscored their opponents 55-40 this season...West Valley will try to pick up its first win of the season when it returns to Railbelt Conference play Friday, Sept. 5 against Wasilla in Fairbanks. The Warriors lost to Lathrop 21-10 on Friday night,

Reach Matt Tunseth at mtunseth@alaskadispatch.com or 257-4335.

LYNX 29, WOLFPACK 7

West Valley      7   0   0   0 — 7

Dimond            6   10   7   6 — 29

First Quarter

Dimond — Ra. Zavala 22 pass from Maga (kick missed), 5:49

West Valley — Jones 23 run (Marshall kick), 1:48

Second Quarter

Dimond — Brunell 36 FG, 7:31

Dimond — Vasai 8 run (Brunell kick), 3:58

Third Quarter

Dimond — Vasai 58 fumble return (Brunell kick), 2:14

Fourth Quarter

Dimond — Maga 1 run (kick missed), 7:39

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — West Valley: Cummings 10-36, Jones 8-31, Lester 7-7, Damario 1-2, Cooks 1-0. Dimond: Tanuvasa 11-74, Vasai 5-34, Schell 4-27, Brunell 4-24, Tufaga 1-13, Ro. Zavala 3-11, Nelson 3-5.

PASSING — West Valley: Lester 9-13-1--92. Dimond: Maga 5-11-0--88.

RECEIVING — West Valley: Cooks 4-39, Jones 2-32, Cummings 9-13, Joyner 1-8. Dimond: Brunell 3-47, Parker 1-25, Ra. Zavala 1-16.