Yokota starts off where it left off - winning big
Robert D. Edgren quarterback Khaleem Shabazz gets chased down by Yokota's defensive ends A.J. Leake and Ke'Ondre Davis during Friday's DODDS Japan season-opening football game at Yokota Air Base, Japan. The Panthers routed the Eagles 54-6.
Stars and Stripes
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – It took a little more than one quarter for Panthers football to find its next legion of star running backs under the lights and in the rain Friday at Yokota’s Bonk Field.
J.J. Henderson ran 15 times for 195 yards and three touchdowns, Nick Peterson added 171 yards and two scores on 11 attempts, Jamarvin Harvey rushed 7 times for 59 yards and a TD and quarterback Marcus Henagan added two scoring runs as Yokota routed Robert D. Edgren 54-6.
“Nick and J.J. are two tough runners, the next two guys in the long line of Yokota running backs,” said coach Tim Pujol, who earned his 120th win at Yokota’s helm in 14-plus seasons. “And Harvey was right in there, too, and Marcus did a great job of executing the offense.”
The game ended with 3 minutes, 28 seconds left due to lightning in the area. The second half was played with a running clock.
It was the first game for the two-time defending Far East Division I champions since their entire offense and most of the defense that won those two titles graduated last June. All but six on the roster are underclassmen, including the four backs, all sophomores.
The foursome is replacing a backfield of Donovan Ball, Stanley Speed, Raymond Butler and Morgan Breazell who totaled 3,640 yards and 57 touchdowns last season.
Despite being much smaller physically than in 2011 and ’12, Friday’s production mirrored that of those teams – Yokota amassed 465 yards on 38 carries and passed just twice. Henderson racked up 245 all-purpose yards on 17 total touches.
The performance was far from perfect, particularly with tackling and having the right personnel on the field at the right times, Pujol said.
“We have a lot to work on in practice,” he said. “We had some personal-foul penalties and some missed tackles in the open field. We have to do a better job with that. And we have to do a better job of improving our football IQ. That comes with experience. And I’d like to see the passing game improved.”
Despite the tackling problems, the Panthers forced a turnover and a sack and held the Eagles to just 38 offensive yards and three first downs. But Edgren sparkled on special teams, rolling up 244 yards and its lone touchdown on 10 returns, giving Yokota fits.
Diminutive senior Tyrone Bacalso did most of that damage; he gained 248 all-purpose yards on 16 touches, including his seventh kick-return TD in a season-plus, scoring from 82 yards out 11:47 before halftime.
The score might have been even more one-sided had not Santi Fleming of Edgren stripped the ball out of Peterson’s hands at the goal line and returned the fumble 29 yards. Peterson had carried the ball 80 yards on the broken play and appeared to have his third TD of the game in hand.
“Our young kids are learning, they’re very young,” Eagles coach Blaine Miller said, adding that he saw some good things despite the one-sided nature of the game. A key was inserting J.P. Krussick at center, after which a series of bad snaps that set back the Eagles ended.
“He stepped up tonight, and Santi on that breakaway run decided to show his teammates that he would chase that kid down, strip that ball away and recovered and ran it back. Hopefully, it shows the younger kids to never give up. We have some things to work on. We’ll go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get it fixed,” Miller said.
Yokota visits Zama American and Edgren travels to Nile C. Kinnick on Friday; both kickoffs are at 7 p.m.