KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Kinser’s defense has turned this year’s playoffs into its own personal showcase.
Jason Jarmond and Justin Grems each returned interceptions for fourth-quarter touchdowns after Devante Dudley helped give the Kings a 20-0 lead with two TD runs and Kinser won the 2014 U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League Torii Bowl 36-0 over Kadena here Saturday.
“I was expecting a dogfight, but I underestimated my defense,” Kings quarterback-coach Sanford James said. “They proved themselves, just as they did against Hansen” in a 39-0 semifinal win on June 14.
After averaging 424.7 yards the previous three games, the Dragons (5-4) were held to just 82 in 58 plays by the Kings defense. Donald Smith and Jeremiah Johnson each recovered fumbles for Kinser (6-1).
“Kadena is bigger than us clear across the board,” James said. “But I have a team filled with athletes and I guess they wanted it more.”
It was the largest margin of victory in Torii Bowl history, surpassing Foster’s 30-6 win over Yokota in 2009.
It was also the first Torii Bowl that finished with a running clock when the mercy rule was invoked midway through the fourth quarter. And it marked the first time a team ended each of its playoff victories with a running clock in one USFJ-AFL postseason.
“I’d like to congratulate the Kinser Kings for their championship win,” said coach Robert Friend of Kadena, which has lost the last two Torii Bowls, including a 20-13 defeat at Misawa last July 13.
Aside from the turnovers, the Dragons failed to get untracked offensively, compounded by the loss of quarterback Brandon Avery with an injured throwing shoulder in the second quarter. “We couldn’t get a rhythm going,” Friend said. “Losing the quarterback, it hurt us.”
Dudley capped Kinser’s opening drive with a 4-yard TD run 7:45 into the contest. With Kadena backed up to its 2, Avery, rushed into the end zone, stepped on the back boundary for a safety on the next possession.
It remained 8-0 until Dudley’s 5-yard scoring run 7:45 before halftime. Johnson covered the ensuing onside kick; three plays later, James found Jarmond from 50 yards out for a score that made it 20-0.
The fourth-quarter pick-sixes came on back-to-back possessions with backup quarterback Steven McDermott running a hurry-up Kadena offense. Jarmond took the first 86 yards for a TD with 9:08 left, then two plays later Grems took his 66 yards to cap the scoring.
It was a sendoff of the best order for James, who leaves Okinawa next week to attend recruiting training. “To go out on top, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.”
He was 6-for-15 for 76 yards. Dudley was named winner of the first Joseph Howell MVP trophy, named for the league’s former commissioner; Dudley rushed for 45 yards. Jarmond had 154 all-purpose yards.
Friend, too, has coached his last game on Okinawa; he transfers before the start of next season, and thanked his players in an emotional exchange after the game.
“They’ve stuck with us for two years, some for three, thick and thin, they show up and do what they have to do,” Friend said.
The lone bright spot for the Dragons was Manny Griffin, the lone holdover from the days of the Okinawa Football League. Playing his last game in Kadena uniform, Griffin ran for 84 yards on 19 carries and had 133 all-purpose yards.