Kinnick tested by Zama, but moves to 5-0
Stars and Stripes
NAVAL AIR FACILITY ATSUGI, Japan – With most eyes glued to Nile C. Kinnick sophomore running back Dre Paylor and senior quarterback Dustin Wilson, it could be easy for junior Greg Bacon to get lost in the crowd.
That suits coach Dan Joley and the unbeaten Red Devils perfectly, now that they’ve come within a victory of the school’s first DODDS Japan championship.
Bacon rushed four times for 46 yards Friday, including a 28-yard fake-punt run to keep a drive alive, and caught two passes for 68 yards and a touchdown as Kinnick held off Zama American 34-20 at Atsugi’s Reid Memorial Stadium.
“He’s phenomenal,” Joley said. “We use him in key situations when they’re (opponents) keying on Dre and Dustin and we’re able to sneak him in there.”
Though Wilson and Paylor have gained the lion’s share of yards and scored the most times this season: “There are no egos on this team," Joley said. “It’s a fun year with these guys. Solid individuals, and that makes it even more fun.”
With the win, Kinnick (5-0) swept the season series from the Trojans (1-3). A win in two weeks at Robert D. Edgren will give the Red Devils their first DODDS Japan title, and they’re two wins away from capturing their first Kanto Plain title in 15 years.
“That’s something we haven’t remotely looked at,” Joley said, adding that Kinnick is taking things a game at a time, starting Friday with their visit to American School In Japan. “We’re locked in on ASIJ,” Joley said.
Wilson accounted for five more touchdowns, as he did six days earlier in a 44-6 romp at Seoul American. Wilson rushed 14 times for 133 yards and four TDs, and went 2-for-3 passing.
Zama did its best to keep the ball out of Red Devils hands in the first half. Kinnick gained 240 yards and scored 20 points, but on just 19 plays.
“That was a physical game. They’re a good football team,” Joley said. “He (Zama coach Steven Merrell) made some nice adjustments to shut us down on a couple of series in the second half, then got a long touchdown pass.”
Zama’s Nick Zeagler went just 4-for-10 passing, but for 133 yards, including an 81-yard scoring pass to Raymond Bestor. Ryuji Vandeusen and Gabriel Brumage each also caught touchdown passes. Hiro Beale, with 51 yards on 11 carries, led four Zama rushers with 43 yards or more.
“I was proud of how we played the whole game,” Merrell said. “We made some mistakes (but) we played tough to the end. They’re (Kinnick) a good team. One of the Division I favorites knew they were in a game. We were competing, we had our chances and that’s all you can ask.”