YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Ripe for the picking, the ball fell into a puddle of water at Yokota’s 48-yard line in the driving rain in the opening minutes of Saturday’s Far East Division I football title game.
“At first, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, snap!’ because we had fumbled the ball,” Yokota quarterback Stanley Speed said.
But the senior turned what could have been a momentum-shifting turnover into the game’s defining moment, picking up the ball and following a wall of blockers 52 yards for the first of eight Panthers touchdowns in their 55-8 romp over Kubasaki for their second straight D-I title.
“Any time it’s a broke play, Coach P (Tim Pujol) always tells us to pick it up and go where the hole is, and that’s what I did,” Speed said. “The whole line kept blocking, so the play looked like it was designed. At least that’s what everybody on the sideline said.”
“Stanley did one of the things that I asked the boys to try to do, I said everybody, look for an opportunity to be a playmaker,” Pujol said. “And that’s what he did. He set the tone. Absolutely.”
Helped by three Kubasaki turnovers and two untimely personal-foul penalties that kept one Panthers scoring drive alive, Yokota’s rushing attack, running behind an all-senior line, amassed 421 yards on 52 carries. Yokota passed once and was not penalized at all.
“Not many teams can repeat a championship,” said senior running back Morgan Breazell, who had 56 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and finished the season with 1,086 yards and 15 touchdowns on 111 attempts. “It’s just great.”
Even the linemen who plowed open the holes got into the scoring act themselves in the late going. Dylan Kessler and Victor Madaris each scored their only high school touchdowns on short dive plays.
“Yes. Awesome,” said Madaris. “It’s great. I couldn’t have wished for a better ending to the season. It’s the best team I’ve ever been on. Everybody made a play. Nobody took a play off.”
“This is exactly how I envisioned it in my wildest dreams,” Pujol said.
Yokota (11-0) ended the season with a 15-game winning streak dating back to 2011. In the last three seasons, Yokota has a 27-2 record and outscored opponents 1,122-240. Kubasaki (6-4) finished the season with three straight defeats, two to Yokota.
“We have some youth on this team and it’s been kind of a theme for us all season: We’ve been our own worst enemy, our own toughest opponent from time to time, but tonight, the toughest opponent was Yokota High School,” Dragons coach Fred Bales said.
Raymond Butler followed Speed’s opening score by converting a Jacob Davis fumble recovery into a 12-yard TD run. Breazell’s 1-yard scoring run made it 20-0 near first quarter’s end.
Jarrett Mitchell broke the shutout when he took a short pass from Tyler Smith, found the left side bottled up, then reversed his field for a dazzling 62-yard touchdown reception.
The Kubasaki junior finished with 128 yards total offense and the Pacific lead in rushing with 1,392 yards on 139 carries.
Butler, who finished the season with 1,212 yards on 95 carries and 14 touchdowns, scored from 4 yards out 4 minutes, 17 seconds before halftime, then Donovan Ball, with 728 yards and 10 touchdowns on 43 attempts this season, ran 36 yards to make it 36-8 with 2:44 left in the second period.
Speed’s 2-yard touchdown run with 8:24 left made it 42-8; the game was played with a running clock from there. Speed finished the season with 614 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on 57 carries and was 10-for-15 for 346 yards and four TDs in the air.
The linemen then took their turns scoring. “We figured we owed them one,” Pujol said. “They wanted to be honorary members of the ‘Killer B’s.’”
“They’re certainly a great team and they finished off a great undefeated season,” Bales said of Yokota. “They’re deserving champions. We’ll learn from this and learn from them and come back strong next year.”
“They’ve worked so hard and all of it came to fruition,” Pujol said. “I’m really proud of them and happy for them.”