Kadena rolls over Kinnick to reach title game
Kadena running back Justin Sego gets blocks and looks to navigate through the Nile C. Kinnick defense during Saturday's Division I football game at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan. The Panthers won 49-14 and secured host rights to Saturday's D-I title game.
Stars and Stripes
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Striking a balance on offense, running back Justin Sego and pass-catch tandem JaMario Harris and Preston Harris on Saturday returned Kadena to the Far East Division I football title game for the first time in three years.
Sego rushed for four touchdowns, while JaMario Harris connected with Preston Harris for touchdowns on back-to-back possessions as the Panthers romped 49-14 over Nile C. Kinnick, securing host rights to the D-I final.
“We’re glad to be back in that game,” coach Sergio Mendoza of Kadena (6-1) said of the D-I title showdown with island rival Kubasaki at 6 p.m. Saturday at Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field.
“This is where Kadena football should be and we worked really hard to get there. So, we have one more game that means everything to us and we’re going to do our best.”
Leading that charge on Saturday was Sego, who rushed 19 times for 177 yards, finishing the regular season with 1,167 yards on 147 tries with 18 touchdowns.
“He’s a special player, Mendoza said, adding that Sego possesses quickness like no back he’s had since Shariff Coleman in 2010. “And he has a heart that’s humongous and he loves his teammates like brothers.”
Sego scored on runs of 1, 71, 17 and 2 yards and holding penalties negated three more TDs. Sego also caught a 34-yard scoring pass and finished with 266 all-purpose yards, 211 on offense.
“Frustrating,” Mendoza said, adding that eight Kadena TDs have been called back this season. “That’s something we have to work on, we make those mistakes.”
Mendoza says all the work to make the Harrises pay dividends is finally happening. “We’ve been working on their relationship all season and I think they’ve finally gotten it down pat. They’re finally connecting.”
JaMario Harris was 3-for-6 for 89 yards, all three completions for touchdowns. Harris also intercepted a pass and rushed 12 times for 93 yards. Barry Mitchell also had an interception and D.J. Padilla a sack.
Despite the defeat, the Red Devils (6-5), who lost five of their last six games, made some individual history: Sophomore Dre Paylor became just the second Pacific running back to record 2,000 yards in a season. He finished with 2,002 on 250 carries, getting 138 on 21 attempts in Saturday’s game.
“It’s bittersweet that it didn’t come in a victory,” Kinnick coach Dan Joley said. “But I’m proud of Dre. To persist as he has over these last five games, knowing that every team targets him and still comes up with big numbers. It’s so surreal sometimes to think he’s a sophomore.”
Corey Dunlap-Buckmon of the Simon Sanchez Sharks on Guam holds the Pacific record with 2,088 yards in 2001.
Dustin Wilson scored both Kinnick touchdowns, rushing 11 times for 48 yards and going 3-for-9 for 72 yards to finish the season with 1,800 yards total offense and tying the DODDS Japan single-season record for touchdowns with 30. George Calbert led Kinnick with 17 tackles.