Kubasaki finally gets best of Yokota
Kubasaki running back Jarrett Mitchell cuts around left end and away from Yokota defender Nick Pederson during Saturday's Far East Division I football game at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The Dragons beat the two-time defending D-I champion Panthers 27-3, their first win over Yokota since an 18-14 triumph in 2008 on Kubasaki's home turf.
Stars and Stripes
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan - They could have celebrated avenging four straight losses to Yokota, the last two coming by blowout margins in the 2011 and ’12 Far East Division I title games.
But Fred Bales and his Kubasaki Dragons would prefer to focus on what’s in front of them, not what’s in the rear-view mirror.
Jarrett Mitchell rushed 21 times for 238 yards, including touchdown runs of 30, 1 and 1 yards, Tyshon Butler added a rushing TD and two sacks and the Dragons pulled away in the second half to down the Panthers 27-3 Saturday at the site of those big losses, Yokota’s Bonk Field.
It was Kubasaki’s first win over Yokota since beating the Panthers 18-14 in the 2008 season, but Bales didn’t discuss that. “I only care about this season,” he said. “This is the only season for us.”
Instead, he focused on what the Dragons have to do to keep improving and make a run at a third straight D-I title-game berth. “We played hard on every snap, and we played well on many snaps. We still have a lot of work to do,” he said.
Despite what looked like a one-sided outcome on the scoreboard, Bales said Yokota played a typically tough Panthers game. Coach Tim Pujol “had his kids ready to play,” Bales said.
“They played their tails off. They were very worthy opponents tonight. They made life difficult for us for 2½ quarters. My hat’s off to them for their game preparation, nice execution in the passing game and tough defense. They made us earn everything we got tonight.”
Winston Maxwell added 95 yards on eight carries for Kubasaki (3-1 overall, 2-1 D-I). Kareem Key had 23 yards on four tries plus a two-point conversion catch, 12 tackles and a forced fumble. Sho Green recovered two fumbles and Steven Hunt one and Jacob Green intercepted a late fourth-quarter pass.
With Yokota preparing for just a varsity game this week, Pujol inserted some of his better junior-varsity players into the lineup, and one in particular, Noah Macias, stood out, Pujol said. Macias gave Yokota its lone points with a field goal late in the second quarter.
“He did a fantastic job” at free safety, “he can come up and tackle, he was great in run support,” Pujol said.
It also allowed Yokota to play Marcus Henagan exclusively on offense and allowed Pujol to better confer with him, “which helps us as much as we throw the ball,” Pujol said.
Henagan was 11-for-25 for 101 yards, with Ke’Ondre Davis catching five aerials for 59 yards. Henagan also scrambled seven times for 35 yards.
“Our tackling is improving,” Pujol said. “I was disappointed we fumbled the ball away three times.”
This is uncharted territory for Pujol-coached Yokota teams. The Panthers are 1-4 overall, 0-2 in D-I, and have lost four straight for the first time since the 1998 season and first time with Pujol as coach. But he still views things from a positive perspective, he said.
“The game can beat you physically. If you’re disappointed by the results, it can beat you mentally,” he said. “You have to stay positive and keep an eye on the near and distant future. It’s all about identifying areas that need improvement and go back to work next week.”
Yokota next visits Kadena at 6 p.m. Oct. 5. Kubasaki travels to Robert D. Edgren for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday kickoff.