Kinnick spots Zama lead before taking opener
Stars and Stripes
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Dre Paylor got it done on the ground. Dustin Wilson got it done in the air as well as on the ground. And Nile C. Kinnick, after falling behind by two touchdowns early, got it done in the end against Zama American in Friday’s DODDS Japan opener.
Paylor’s second-quarter touchdown run rallied the Red Devils after the Trojans scored the game’s first two TDs, then Kinnick held on through a see-saw fourth quarter to edge Zama 27-19 at Yokosuka’s Berkey Field.
“That was the turning point, gave us a momentum swing,” said Kinnick coach Dan Joley of Paylor’s touchdown, which put the Red Devils ahead 14-13 lead. Paylor finished with 193 yards on 21 carries. The touchdown came after Nick Gallagher killed a Zama drive with a fumble recovery.
Another momentum shifter came with less than three minutes left before halftime. With Zama pinned deep in its territory, Joley used all three of his timeouts to force a fourth-down punt. It went to Kinnick’s 46-yard line, from where Wilson hit Greg Bacon with a 54-yard TD pass.
That made it 20-13 at halftime, and it stayed that way until the fourth quarter, when Hiro Beale’s 15-yard TD run cut the lead to 20-19; Zama then missed the ensuing two-point try.
Wilson then finished the Kinnick comeback, scoring from 10 yards out with four minutes left and the Red Devils hung on from there. Wilson rushed five times for 35 yards and went 8-for-14 for 121 yards.
“I was pleased with what I saw,” Joley said of his team’s performance, adding that with it coming against Zama’s intricate Wing-T offense, with its traps, counters and reverses, made it doubly difficult.
“It’s hard to defend that early in the season. A lot of our guys haven’t seen it. I think we did great.”
Bacon had seven tackles and Ian O’Brien eight for Kinnick.
Zama, the defending Far East Division II champion, caught a spark early on when new quarterback Nick Zeagler hit Raymond Bestor from 30 yards out. Keiyl Sasano, a sophomore, made it 13-0 with a 4-yard run. Bestor also had two returns of 50-plus yards and an interception; Jay Lavette also picked off a pass.
“We didn’t finish with the result we wanted,” coach Steven Merrell said, but “we believed we were in the game the entire time. I felt good about our effort, that we kept driving to the end. We have a lot to work on; everybody has to fix a lot of things early in the season. I think we’ll be a competitive team.”
Zama hosts Yokota and Kinnick entertains Robert D. Edgren on Friday; kickoffs are at 7 p.m.