The Dimond Lynx were on the brink of spoiling Bartlett’s homecoming and earning their first win of the football season Friday night.
All that changed in favor of the home team when Bartlett sophomore Manu Aluela-Satele bolted up the middle for a six-yard touchdown with less than 90 seconds on the clock, lifting the Golden Bears to a 14-8 Cook Inlet Conference triumph.
“All my seniors needed it because it is their last homecoming game, so I’m glad that I got it for them,” said Aluela-Satele. “As a sophomore and the youngest on the team, it really felt good to help my team out.”
The Bartlett defense stood strong and forced the Lynx to turn the ball over on downs on their final possession. The four-play sequence included a sack, a short gain, a pass breakup and ended with a last-ditch heave by Dimond junior quarterback Tyler Reese, a pass that sailed over the heads of both its intended receiver and the nearest Bartlett defender.
“This team just likes to battle,” said Bartlett coach Chance Matsuoka. “They like to make everything close. I wish they wouldn’t, but I love their spirit, they never quit.”
Bartlett evened its overall record to 2-2 and moved to 1-2 in the CIC. Dimond is 0-3 overall and 0-3 in the CIC.
Aluela-Satele’s touchdown was his second of the game. His first came in the first half when he rumbled up the middle for an eight-yard score to give the Golden Bears a 7-0 halftime lead.
“He had a really rough start to the season and he’s just worked really hard to get better every week, and this is kind of his coming out party where he showed why he’s on varsity,” said Matsuoka.
Dimond’s first three drives ended with fumbles, and Bartlett blocked a mid-range field goal attempt by the Lynx with 11 seconds left in the half.
After going three and out on their first possession of the second half, Lynx needed just six plays to snatch the lead following a Bartlett fumble that put Dimond deep in Golden Bears country.
Reese punched the ball across the goal line on a 1-yard quarterback sneak. He called his own number on the two-point attempt when he couldn’t find an open receiver, sprinting to the right front pylon and trucking a Bartlett defender to put Dimond up 8-7 midway through the third quarter.
The teams traded punts and lost one fourth-down gamble after another before the Golden Bears set out on the game-winning drive with nearly the length of the field to go. They marched down the field in 14 plays, keeping the ball mainly on the ground.
“The ability to be behind and come back shows a lot of character,” said Matsuoka, who had a starter wheeled off the field with an injury in the third quarter. “For us to come back and win and battle back through our injuries was very impressive.”
On a night when points were hard to come by, Bartlett scored two on extra-point kicks by junior Marty Burton, the only girl on the varsity team.
“It feels great,” she said. “I love to help out. I love the pressure and like the adrenaline.”
Burton is a soccer player by trade but said her mother pushed her to try football. She played on junior varsity team last season as a sophomore and is excited for the opportunity to play varsity this season.
While her mom was nudging her to join the team, Matsuoka gave her the final push. He was Burton’s ninth-grade math teacher and he knew she played soccer. He asked if she wanted to kick field goals, she said OK, and “that was it,” Matsuoaka said.
“Bartlett has had a history of having female kickers and they’ve been very good,” he added. “The year or two that we didn’t have one, we couldn’t make a PAT to save our lives, so as far as I’m concerned, that strategy is going to continue.”