YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — With their six-year championship grip slowly slipping away, Seoul American still had much in its favor, from proud parents in the stands to the team mascot dancing on the sidelines and a memorable homecoming planned.
First, rain, lightning and thunder began the misery. Then, Daegu American’s David Martinez completed the coup.
The speedster returned a punt 48 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter as the Warriors overthrew the six-time DODEA-Korea champion Falcons with a 12-6 victory Friday night on a wet, soggy Falcon Field. It was Daegu’s first league football title in school history.
“As soon as I got the ball, I saw great blocking and I just took off,” Martinez said. “I couldn’t believe we were so close to winning it all.”
“It was an exciting game,” said Falcons coach Alan Morton. “They (Daegu) deserve to be champions of the league because they earned it on the field.”
Seoul committed 10 penalties in the first half alone, and a bad snap to punter Eugene So resulted in Daegu running back Josh Gosserand bulldozing in from 16 yards out for the game’s first score.
“We worked on not committing turnovers and reducing penalties all week during practice,” Morton said. “That is an area that has been hurting us all season long and we were trying to improve.”
“We put in new offensive plays to try to spark our offense because our main running back was banged up,” said Warriors coach Ken Walter of Antoine “Flash” Feagin.
It turned out Feagin (49 yards, 10 carries) had plenty of help. Gosserand rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown, and Anthony Lampman ran for 21 yards and had a team-leading 10 tackles.
The Falcons (1-4) answered with Demetrius Johnson, who had 34 yards on 11 carries and an eight-yard touchdown plunge to tie it 6-6 at halftime.
“I tried my best to inspire my team,” Johnson said. “I am proud of our team for the effort they put out there tonight.”
But it was not enough to perpetuate the Falcons’ title run, which included Far East Class AA championships in 2006 and 2008. Daegu also completed its first season series sweep of Seoul in school history.
No Daegu team had won a Korea senior football title since the 1993 Warriors, when the league was administered by 8th U.S. Army and 51st Services youth activities.
“We played better than last week,” Morton said. “This game made us better tonight and I thank Daegu for the opportunity to play such a great game.”
The rain stopped briefly in the fourth quarter, just in time for Martinez’s game-winning punt return.
“Our defense played great,” Morton said. “They gave us a chance all night long and I’m proud of them.”
Seoul’s defense was buoyed by safety Jamal James, who had eight tackles, and linebacker Malcolm Horne (seven tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.)
But in the end, the Warriors (4-0) pulled the curtain on the Seoul dynasty. Next is Friday’s battle at Osan American, where Daegu will attempt to seal its second Class A title-game berth in three years. Daegu or Osan will host Zama American in the title game on Nov. 7.
“I’m proud for the school, its players and my coaching staff for this historic accomplishment,” Walter said. “It has been a team effort all year long.”