ANCHORAGE - A close friend's wedding kept Dimond High School football coach Duncan Shackelford from the sidelines of Saturday night's Cook Inlet Football Conference game against the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears.
Just as well. Shackelford probably saved himself a few gray hairs.
Dimond couldn't breathe easily until Lynx nickelback Joel Tomco picked off a Chad Dubois pass on Dimond's 9-yard line with 72 seconds remaining at Dimond High School's Alumni Field to preserve a 13-9 Cook Inlet Football Conference victory over Juneau. Shackelford, who was in the wedding party, said he was unable to move the game to an afternoon kickoff.
As it was, Shackelford frequently got on his cell phone to get on-site reports from parents of players, coaches and a Dimond administrator. That was nerve-wracking enough for the man who has guided the Lynx to the last two large schools state championships.
"I was on the phone about every 10 minutes," Shackelford said later when reached on his cell phone at the wedding reception. "I was sweating bullets until the interception."
In Shackelford's absence, defensive coordinator Fred Slone stepped into the head role and was ably assisted by the other assistant coaches. The Lynx, who lost their nonconference season opener, 20-13, at Palmer, improved to 1-1 overall and they are perfect under Slone.
"The head coach is fired," Slone deadpanned.
Slone's defense came through in the clutch. On each of Juneau's last three possessions, all in the fourth quarter, the Lynx responded well to protect their 13-9 lead.
Juneau (1-1 overall, 0-1 CIFC) got the ball back with 11 minutes left, but Anthony Shelton pounced on a fumble by Juneau running back Brian Felix (15 carries, 62 yards). On Juneau's next possession, linebacker Chad Adams met Felix with a thundering hit at the line on first down, Luke Ayer sacked Dubois for a five-yard loss on second down and Kris Hodges hit Dubois just as he threw on third down for an incompletion that forced Juneau to punt.
On Juneau's last drive, the Crimson Bears drove from their own 22-yard line to the Dimond 35, raising visions of a repeat of last week's 8-6 victory over Kenai. In that game, Juneau scored with 63 seconds left to play.
"We were confident," Juneau coach Reilly Richey said. "We had a great last-minute win last week, so everyone thought we could do it."
With 1:12 remaining, Dubois rolled right and threw downfield. But Tomco made a leaping, bobbling beauty of an interception.
"I was kind of nervouos," Tomco said. "But on that specific play, I knew he was going to throw and I had responsibility deep. I totally had faith in our defense."
Dubois, who threw for 128 yards and one touchdown, said the drive felt like it could culminate in another last-minute victory.
"Our hopes weren't down," Dubois said. "In our minds, we thought we were going to plug it in and win. But things don't always go your way. They were just playing good defense."
"The kids played real hard," Richey said. "It really could have gone either way. We had some chances and didn't take advantage of them."
Each team scored on its first possession as Juneau opened the scoring with a five-yard touchdown pass from Dubois to tight end Colin Conerton and Dimond answered with a three-yard run by Milo Ward to take a 7-6 lead. Juneau added Willy Dobbs' 30-yard field goal just before halftime to take a 9-7 lead into the break.
But the Lynx - whose 246 yards rushing included Adams' game-high 78 yards on 11 carries - scored on their first possession of the second half for the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Dimond, running the option out of the wishbone formation, marched 57 yards in 11 plays, with quarterback Troy Bittner scoring on an eight-yard run.
LYNX 13, CRIMSON BEARS 9
Saturday's game from Dimond High School
JUNEAU-DOUGLAS 6 3 0 0 - 9
DIMOND 7 0 6 0 - 13
Juneau-Douglas - Conerton 5 pass from Dubois (run failed), 6:30.
Dimond - Ward 3 run (Kimpton kick), 2:01.
Juneau-Douglas - FG Dodd 30, 0:30.
Dimond - Bittner 8 run (run failed), 6:54.
First downs 11 15
Rushes-yards 33-74 52-246
Passing yards 128 10
Return yards 158 51
Comp-Att-Int 7-20-1 1-6-1
Punts-Ave 3-33.3 4-29.8
Fumbles-lost 2-1 2-0
Penalties-yards 5-42 3-30
RUSHING - Juneau-Douglas: Felix 15-62, Henderson 1-8, Dubois 11-1, N. West 2-3, Cameron 4-0. Dimond: Adams 11-78, Ward 9-63, Bittner 10-31, Ayer 8-30, Harris 7-19, Walther 4-18, Higgins 3-7.
PASSING - Juneau-Douglas: Dubois 7-20-1 - 128. Dimond: Bittner 1-6-1 - 10.
RECEIVING - Juneau-Douglas: Monts 2-58, Cameron 1-28, Winn 1-16, M. Shilling 1-8, Henderson 1-7, Conerton 1-5. Dimond: Harris 1-10.
MISSED FIELD GOALS - None.