Things learned, observed during Tomodachi Bowl I Sunday at Yokosuka

U.S. Army Japan commanding officer Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison and former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso are flanked by members of Teams USA and Japan after Sunday's Tomodachi Bowl at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. Team USA, comprised of Yokota, Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick and American School In Japan players, beat Team Japan 50-17.

It was not nearly the 61-0 curbstomping administered by Team USA to Team Japan in the Camellia Bowl two years ago at Kawasaki Stadium. It was also far from the close battle anticipated between the two teams when they teed it up for Sunday’s Tomodachi Bowl at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field.

Sunday’s 50-17 Team USA victory most definitely took on the appearance of an offensive showcase by American School In Japan quarterback Hayden Jardine and running backs Ken Yajima and Haru Kent, along with a dash of rushing by Zama American junior tandem Andre Encarnacion and Mitchell Harrison and clutch secondary play by Yokota free safety Stanley Speed.

-- Jardine: In his final appearance in Kanto uniform and in his second USA vs. Japan start, the Mustangs senior went 8-for-15 for 164 yards and two touchdowns, and 26 yards on seven carries, including a 30-yard touchdown run near the end of the first half, which was a thing of beauty. He must have broken 12 tackles on that keeper around left end. There was also his 47-yard X-flag strike to Dustin Kimbrell of Kinnick, which set up the TD that ended the first half with Team USA ahead 33-3.

­­-- Kent: 108 yards on nine carries, a 7-yard touchdown run and a field goal.

-- Yajima: 91 yards on seven carries, a 5-yard rushing touchdown and a 19-yard receiving TD.

-- Encarnacion: 67 yards on eight carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run on his second carry.

-- Harrison: Entering the game in the third quarter, he scored on a 39-yard run on his first carry and finished with 30 on three attempts.

-- Speed: Interceptions on successive Team Japan possessions, which ended scoring threats by their Japanese counterparts.

In all, Team USA racked up 513 yards on 58 plays and 612 total yards. But while Team USA outgained its Japanese counterparts by almost 3-1 on offense, Team Japan, represented by Rikkyo Niiza and Hosei High Schools of Kanagawa Prefecture, made its mark this time around, particularly on special teams. It was a far cry from its dreadful performance in the first Camellia Bowl.

Hosei had two sustained drives, converting one of 14 plays and 80 yards near the end of the first half into a 22-yard field goal, then scoring its first offensive TD against the U.S. following an 18-play, 80-yard drive that lasted 6:17. And on the opening kickoff of the second half, Hosei’s Genta Ito took the ball at the 21-yard line and rambled 79 yards for a touchdown.

Team Japan racked up 180 yards of total offense and 195 yards on returns. That’s 375 total yards. And 987 total yards between the two teams.

Not bad for a game that was played most of the way in a steady rain, and with a plethora of dignitaries and military uniforms dotting the crowd of something close to 600. The bowl was renamed from Camellia to Tomodachi, in appreciation of Operation Tomodachi, the rescue and relief operations conducted by the U.S. Armed Forces in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami last March 11.

One of the game’s founding fathers, former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso who serves as the president of the Japanese Parliamentary Association for American Football, was on hand. U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos was unable to attend; no reason was given.

Also in attendance were U.S. Army Japan commanding officer Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison. Fleet Activities Yokosuka commanding officer Capt. David Owen’s opening remarks he punctuated by channeling his best Hank Williams Jr.: “ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL?” Naval Air Facility Atsugi commanding officer Capt. Steven J. Weiman was also on hand.

It was great to see the new version of Kinnick’s Football Fanatics out in force, running the concession stand and selling Red Devil Football T-shirts. Coaches Dan Joley and Robert Stovall indicated that the Fanatics, who were as much a part of the fabric of Kinnick football in the mid-1990s as the cheerleaders are to the Dallas Cowboys, have been revived to inject life into the gridiron culture. Some memorable times, watching George Thompson, Jared Warner and LaShawn Williams light it up on the field as the “old” Fanatics did with their pork adobo dinners.

Then, there was Jonathan Parker and the Kinnick Red Devils marching band, who entertained the crowd – on both sides of the stands – all game long.

The game’s best hair? That belonged to Dustin Kimbrell of Kinnick, who dyed his coif into a kind of Mohawk designed like the University of Michigan Wolverines helmets.

Question about the game’s future is, where will it be held next year? I’d like to see it go back to Kawasaki, where it began in March 2010, but officials on both sides said they would like for it to continue to be held on a base.

That will likely mean Yokota, since Darrell Mood, the school’s principal detached to Zama American as its acting principal until the end of the school year, said he would like to host it next March. That is, unless Joley is able to convince school administration to keep it next year.

Mark plus 21.

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Ornauer on AFN


Stars and Stripes reporter Dave Ornauer talks about the Pacific sports scene on AFN Radio. (Click on right arrow to play file.)


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