CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — After winning their first three games with relative ease, life at the top of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League’s South Division has become challenging for Sanford James and his Kinser Kings in the last couple of weeks.
James accounted for all four touchdowns plus a field goal and Jason Jarmond caught two TD passes and picked off a pass as the Kings outlasted never-say-die Foster 29-21 on Saturday at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium.
But either this is not the same Kings team that won its first three games by an average of 14 points, or the rest of the division has begun catching up to the team that clinched the division title and the overall No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs, which start Saturday.
But rather than worry, James says he and the Kings are meeting the challenge head-on. “We’re taking it in stride,” he said. “We’re trying to get better with every practice, trying to get to where they (opponents) have to stop us. With our defense, we’ll be all right.”
Kinser (4-1) faces last-place Hansen (2-4) in the first playoff round Saturday. The Wolfpack rallied from a big deficit for the second straight week to top Kadena 32-24 at Kadena Air Base’s Ryukyu Middle School. Hansen came from behind 27-0 to beat Kinser 38-27 on May 31.
“Now, we know they (Hansen) are a second-half team. We’ll just come out and keep swinging until the final whistle,” James said.
James went 15-for-31 for 230 yards, including touchdown passes of 11 yards to Hunter Philbrick and 19 and 67 to Jarmond. James also ran for a touchdown and kicked a 29-yard field goal. DeQuan Clark rushed 16 times for 103 yards and Michael Marshall recovered a fumble for Kinser.
That offset a huge game by the Bulldogs’ Karl Williams, who ran nine times for 92 yards and a touchdown, had 143 yards and a touchdown on four returns and finished with 243 all-purpose yards. William Lane was 13-for-21 for 152 yards for Foster (2-3).
For Hansen, the newly crown late risers of the division, Jay McCray played huge in the second half for the second straight week, accounting for all five Wolfpack touchdowns plus picking off two passes. Hansen trailed the Dragons by 18 at one point before rallying.
And they did it with just 19 players and none of their coaches, all of whom were away on military commitments.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team,” said McCray. “We didn’t give up on ourselves. We got it together, believed in each other and in the end, we prevailed.”
McCray went 12-for-20 for 209 yards and three touchdowns, including an 8-yarder to Tito Rivera with 8.2 seconds left that broke a 24-24 tie.
Kadena players and coaches argued that Rivera didn’t have control of the ball, but head referee Al Harrison and league commissioner Kevin Bonner each confirmed Rivera had control until he went out of bounds.
“I caught it. I did not drop it,” Rivera said.
McCray also rushed 18 times for 77 yards and two scores, finishing with 286 yards total offense and 303 all-purpose yards. The Wolfpack won despite being outgained 422-324 on offense by the Dragons (3-3).
Manny Griffin rushed 17 times for 69 yards and three touchdowns, Jereme Brown scored Kadena’s other touchdown on a 65-yard run and Brandon Avery had 253 yards total offense. Dylan Tuisano had two of Kadena’s four sacks of McCray. DeSean Calderon had 153 all-purpose yards.