Daegu earns spot in D-II finals with triumph
Daegu players enter the field through a paper banner before Saturday's DODDS Pacific Division II football game at Camp Walker, South Korea. The Warriors clinched the D-II regular-season title by beating Zama 21-14, and earned the right to host the title game Nov. 8.
Stars and Stripes
CAMP WALKER, South Korea – Hasan Hanslip reluctantly agreed in September to try out for Daegu’s football team. After Saturday, he’s likely very happy he took the plunge.
The sophomore kicked all three extra-point tries and returned an interception 55 yards for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown late in the third quarter as the Warriors won the Far East Division II regular-season title, beating Zama American 21-14 on Saturday at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field.
Daegu (2-2 overall, 2-0 D-II) will host either Zama or Robert D. Edgren, whichever posts the best D-II Japan record, in the championship on Nov. 8, also at Kelly Field.
“It feels good,” Daegu coach Luke Spencer said. “We’ve been looking for a signature win over a quality opponent and I believe we got that. They’re a quality team, a disciplined team … every year, it seems to go back and forth between us and Zama and we can always look forward to a good game with Zama.”
Spencer spotted Hanslip playing basketball in the gym, and observed that Hanslip’s left-to-right movement “was better than anybody else on the court. Spencer then asked Hanslip to “give football a week,” and he became a “natural fit.”
Hanslip began the season at safety then was shifted to cornerback where he has “been great,” Spencer said.
He played a huge role along with senior defensive backs Patrick O’Houlahan, who broke up one Zama pass attempt, and Anfernee Dent, who set up Daegu’s second touchdown with an interception and 42-yard return.
“Really great job by the secondary,” Spencer said. “He’s only been kicking PATs for three days. I told the guys as we came off the field, he’s the player of the game for me. Awesome kid.”
Zama scored on its second possession, a 29-yard touchdown pass from Nick Zeagler to Raymond Bestor. Then Daegu rattled off 21 unanswered points.
Torian James snagged a 15-yard scoring pass from Caleb Page, who later converted Dent’s interception into a 2-yard TD on a keeper left.
The Trojans (1-4), who’ve lost three straight, tried to rally in the final period. Keiyl Sasano intercepted Page, setting up a Zeagler 22-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Ryuji Vandeusen with 9:56 left.
But Zama’s next possession ended in two sacks and the last one on two incomplete passes deep in its own territory, and Daegu ran out the clock.
Though the Trojans outgained the Warriors 251-183 on offense, in the end, mistakes (two turnovers, 13 penalties for 93 yards) and the Warriors defense, which rang up five sacks, proved too much.
“We had a couple of blown coverages,” Spencer said, adding that for the most part, the Warriors were able to control Zama’s running game and “forcing them to throw in key situations helped us.”
Page totaled 74 yards on offense. Rahmaan Abdul-Azeez paced the Warriors with 78 yards on 20 carries. Steven Robinet had two of Daegu’s sacks. Dent totaled 74 yards on three returns.
Zeagler went 7-for-17 for 119 yards. Raphael Morales rushed 12 times for 78 yards, Bestor added a fumble recovery and Vandeusen caught two passes for 62 yards and had one sack for Zama.
“Too many mistakes, it goes back to the fact that we weren’t able to finish, no doubt disappointing,” Zama coach Steven Merrell said. “But we have to go back to work and get back on track for next week.”
That will mean a visit from Kanto Plain-leading American School In Japan, the last remaining unbeaten team in the Pacific, on Friday at Naval Air Facility
Atsugi’s Reid Memorial Stadium; kickoff is at 7 p.m. Daegu gets a week off before visiting Kadena at 3 p.m. Oct. 12.