Kings avenge Hansen loss, to face Kadena in Torii Bowl
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — They’d watched a 27-0 lead evaporate over a span of 13 minutes, 38 seconds the last time they faced Hansen. Sanford James and the Kinser Kings vowed it would not happen again.
They were true to their word Saturday as James rushed and passed for two touchdowns and Devante Dudley ran for two more and the Kings dominated the Wolfpack in every phase of Saturday’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League South semifinal, winning 39-0.
“We did better this time,” Kings assistant coach Chris Eddy said following the rain-soaked contest played on the field turf at Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field.
Kinser booked a June 28 date in the South Division final, which also serves as the Torii Bowl title game since the three North Division teams folded for the season. The Kings will host Kadena, 34-19 winners over Foster in the other South semifinal.
Rather than open the playbook and get too fancy, as they did in the 38-27 loss to Hansen on May 31, the Kings “stuck with what worked” and “didn’t deviate from the gameplan,” James said.
He credited the offensive line for pass protection and run blocking – James wasn’t sacked once and Dudley rushed 26 times for 212 yards – saying the line “carried us the whole game.”
Of Dudley, who finished with 235 all-purpose yards, James said: “He’s a fighter. Every time he gets the ball, he wants the end zone.”
There were other heroes for the Kings (5-1), who allowed the Wolfpack (2-5) to get only as far as the Kinser 30 with 10:37 left in the first half. The second half was played under mercy rule with a running clock.
James was an economical 5-for-13 for 67 yards, including two touchdown passes to 2012 Kubasaki graduate Columbus Wilson III, who had four catches for 57 yards. Jason Jarmond intercepted three Hansen passes and Shaquille Lewis had two of five Kinser sacks.
Kinser’s defense forced five total takeaways, and held the Wolfpack offense to minus-19 yards on 40 plays and just two first downs, one on special teams. Red Torres led Hansen with 61 all-purpose yards.
“We ran out of bodies,” said coach Cortez Pree of a Hansen team that lost quarterback Dyezelle Hooper and three linemen during the game. That on top of seven other starters whom Pree called the “nucleus of the team” who were absent due to duty commitments.
“Those were guys who got us to this point, but they had to roll out. There was nothing I could do,” Pree said.
Dudley’s rushing total was one of three three-figure performances on a day marked by frequent downpours in Saturday’s first game. It rained continuously throughout the day.
Kadena’s grand old man of the backfield, 12-year Pacific football veteran Manny Griffin, channeled his inner 2004-05 self, rushing 22 times for 205 yards and three touchdowns as the Dragons (5-3) led the Bulldogs (2-4) from start to finish. With Griffin in the backfield, Kadena won the old Okinawa Football League title in its two seasons.
“We’ve got him for one last year and he brought us back to the championship on his legs,” said coach Robert Friend of Kadena, which played and lost last year’s Torii Bowl at Misawa 20-13.
“We took trains, planes and automobiles just to get to Misawa, did everything we could to get up there and play,” Friend said. “This year, it’s on our island. We have a heckuva a chance to go in and win this.”
Splitting time with backup QB Steven McDermott, Brandon Avery racked up 146 yards total offense, including an 18-yard touchdown run and a 21-yard scoring pass to another Kubasaki graduate, Lamar King. DeSean Calderon rushed for a touchdown, caught seven passes for 60 yards and had 90 all-purpose yards.
Colt Kehlenbeck had a sack and a fumble recovery and Anthony Mitchell recovered two. But Kadena’s defense and special teams had little answer for Foster’s Karl Williams, who totaled 319 all-purpose yards, taking a return 86 yards for a touchdown and rushing for two others and even recovering a fumble.
“He’s not afraid to run that ball; he’s a great running back,” Friend said of Williams. “He’s going to do some things next season.”
For now, the Dragons will focus on Kinser and unfinished business. “We took trains, planes and automobiles just to get to Misawa, did everything we could to get up there and play,” Friend said. “This year, it’s on our island. We have a heckuva a chance to go in and win this.”
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