Photo courtesy West High School
If there was a moment that captured the personality of the Dimond football team it came during a recent exchange coach Nick Winkler overheard between two players.
“I heard someone say, ‘It’s about you tonight,’” Winkler told me. “And the kid said, ‘No, it’s about us.’
“I think that’s one thing that’s special about this group. We’re about the team.”
Dimond’s spirit will be tested Friday night when it hosts top-ranked West Anchorage in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup under the lights at Alumni Field.
The Lynx [2-0] feature a high-powered offense that piled up 101 points in victories over Eagle River and South Anchorage. The win over South was the first in five years.
Winkler has been happy with his team’s fast and physical style.
“I think it goes back to fundamentals,” he said. “When you are comfortable with your fundamentals you’re able to play the game and not think about those things that sometimes other players have to think about and you’re just playing. You’re comfortable and confident. I think that helps your confidence a lot on the field.”
It also helps to have playmakers like quarterback Vondell Pilcher and ball hawk Kota Ainu’u.
In last week’s 47-21 win over South, Pilcher threw for five touchdowns and 241 yards while Ainu’u hauled in three touchdown passes and also made an interception on defense.
“We are 11 guys,” Winkler said. “The quarterback, yeah he completes the touchdown pass, but a guy’s gotta catch it, other guys have to run their routes right and make sure there is another option, and you have those big boys up front blocking and our running back doing the right thing.”
West [2-0] has straight schooled opponents this season to the tune of a combined 93-21 score.
Of the three touchdowns allowed by the Eagles, two have come in the fourth quarter after the outcome was in hand.
“Defensive coordinator Joshua Garcia has put the kids in good spots,” West coach Tim Davis told me. “The kids hustle and rally to the ball. It’s made them fun to watch.”
West defensive lineman Ozzie Seuiteni and Julo Tagalu have applied consistent pressure up front and defensive backs Darian Lawson and Turek Taylor have been momentum changers with big plays over the top.
The Eagles also have weapons on offense, most notably quarterback Sean Duffy. The tall lefty passed for 267 yards and a pair of scores in a 48-6 win over Service last week. He also ran one in.
The West ground game has been good behind running backs Tagalu and PJ Seui, but it will need to be great against an athletic Dimond defensive line.
“This will be the toughest challenge yet,” Davis said.
“We live our lives with the mantra ‘Win the Play.’ That keeps us grounded in the game, in practice, and in life. This is a great challenge as Dimond is full of exciting explosive athletes. Our goal will be one play at a time starting in class today, then in practice, then in the game.”
Van Williams is a freelance writer in Anchorage and a correspondent with the Alaska School Activities Association.