Offense was hard to come by Friday night at Tom Huffer Sr. Stadium, so Dimond's defense had to rise to the occasion in a 14-7 win over Chugiak in the Cook Inlet Conference football opener for both teams.
"Pretty evenly matched teams," said Armani Tufaga, who scored Dimond's game-winning touchdown. "We struggled on offense on both sides, fought hard on defense on both sides."
Tufaga was getting a little worried when the Lynx trailed 7-6 with less than seven minutes remaining, but his hopes were lifted when teammate Ryan Brady intercepted a Chugiak pass.
Brady's interception set the Lynx up at the Chugiak 48 yard line, and though they turned the ball back over to the Mustangs on downs, the defensive spark helped set up a blocked punt at the end of Chugiak's next possession.
"The blocked punt was a big momentum shift," said Deven Ferriss, who scored Chugiak's only touchdown on a 68-yard interception return in the third quarter. "Once the final whistle blew, the disappointment came in, because we knew we let one slip through our fingers."
The blocked punt set Dimond up at the Chugiak 26 and Tufaga capped a three-play drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with 2:11 remaining.
"I had to give it my all, trust my linemen," Tufaga said. "If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't have gotten in the end zone."
A two-point conversion run from Elijah Pili put the Lynx (1-1, 1-0 CIC) up by seven and Chugiak (0-2, 0-1 CIC) didn't cross midfield on its final drive.
Chugiak only managed 65 yards offense for the game and turned the ball over four times, but Ferriss thinks there were plenty of positives for the Mustangs to build on.
"To win a football game, your defense has to get stops and I feel like that's what we have to build around," Ferriss said.
Both defenses did a great job of getting stops in the first half, as neither team put together anything resembling a scoring threat on the way to a 0-0 halftime tie.
But Chugiak's Tyler Rhode brought the home crowd to life when he opened the second half with a 68-yard kickoff return to the Dimond 8. The opportunity was squandered when four straight running plays resulted in four yards and a turnover on downs.
Chugiak forced a punt and started its next drive from the Dimond 19, but Chugiak quarterback David Mayhew fumbled on the second play of the drive and Tufaga scooped it up for a 30-yard return to Chugiak's 48. Dimond failed to take advantage of the turnover, going three and out.
Ferriss' interception return put the first points on the board late in the third quarter.
Dimond quarterback Samuel Liaga provided some of the game's top offensive highlights. He made an incredible escape from three Chugiak defenders on the final play of the third quarter, heaving a 28-yard pass to Brady for a first down. He hit Brady again on the first play of the fourth quarter, a 12-yard first down that moved the Lynx to Chugiak's 13.
Four running plays later, Liaga twisted and turned his way through the line for a 3-yard touchdown run. The Lynx went for two and failed on a run by Pili with Chugiak's Dakota Benzel making the tackle.
Reach Jeremy Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
Dimond 0 0 0 14 -- 14
Chugiak 0 0 0 -- 7
Chugiak -- Ferriss 68 interception return (Wilson kick), 1:21
Dimond -- Liaga 3 run (run failed), 10:31
Dimond --Tufaga 13 run (Pili run), 2:11.
First downs 10 4
Rushes-yards 36-105 33-57
Passing yards 70 8
Return yards 103 157
Passes 5-13-2 3-7-1
Punts-avg. 5-24.8 4-28.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 5-3
Penalties-yards 10-95 5-40
Rushing -- Dimond: Tanuvasa 5-40; Tufaga 5-30; Pili 11-28; Unga 4-11; Chong 1-2; Borst 1-2; Barrett 1-0; Liaga 7-(-12); Team 1-4. Chugiak: Timberlake 5-16; Rhode 3-12; Carnahan 2-11; Capers 11-13; Mingledorff 3-5; Prince 1-1; Mayhew 8-(-11).
Passing -- Dimond: Liaga 5-12-2--70; Coleman 0-1-0--0. Chugiak: Mayhew 3-7-1--8
Receiving -- Dimond: Brady 3-50; DuClos 2-33. Chugiak: Timberlake 1-0; Mingledorff 1-(-1) Brownlee 1-9Photos: South High vs. East High football
By JEREMY PETERS
Anchorage Daily News