Caton’s TD lifts Titans in OT
CAMP COURTNEY, Okinawa — The first interservice football league game on Okinawa in 15 years had a little bit of everything: big touchdown passes, defensive scoring, scads of sacks, turnovers and penalties.
It even went to overtime, when halfback William “Bull” Caton scampered 10 yards to complete the Courtney-Hansen Titans’ rally from a 14-6 deficit to a 20-14 victory over the Schwab Panthers on Saturday at Courtney Bowl.
“They gave us all we wanted,” Titans coach Tony Bowman said of the Panthers, coached by his former defensive assistant Robert Bufkin. “A heckuva start to the OFL. This is going to be an exciting league.”
Saturday’s game inaugurated the six-team Okinawa Football League, sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services as the first interservice football league on-island since the old Okinawa League folded in 1989.
The league features four Marine teams — Schwab, Courtney-Hansen, the Kinser Knights and Foster-Futenma Bulldogs — plus the Kadena Dragons of Kadena Air Base and the Ryukyu University Stingray, the latter two as invited guests.
Kadena and Courtney-Hansen played last season in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League.
Three games were scheduled for this weekend, but Saturday’s Kinser-Kadena game and Sunday’s Ryukyu vs. Foster-Futenma contest were postponed due to the approach of Typhoon Meari.
Saturday’s opener had plenty of fireworks.
It was a battle between Caton, a power runner who amassed 124 yards on 15 carries and 165 all-purpose yards, against the Panthers’ flashy returner/receiver David Burnell, who caught a 35-yard TD pass and rolled up 181 all-purpose yards.
Caton occupies the backfield slot held last season by speedy Shawn Alderman.
“He’s not as fast as Shawn, but he’s bigger and has a heckuva lot more power,” Bowman said.
As for Burnell, “the league better look out for him,” Bowman said. “He’s going to be scary before the season’s over.”
In a game filled with sacks, turnovers and penalties, Courtney-Hansen struck first, when Joshua Douglas sacked Schwab quarterback Juventino Camarillo and the ball popped loose. Emanuel Walker picked it up and ran 13 yards for a touchdown 3:54 into the contest.
The Panthers answered when a Camarillo pass was deflected into the hands of receiver Vincent Reeves, who carried it 40 yards for a TD. Rico Randall ran in the two-pointer to give the Panthers an 8-6 lead with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
They increased the lead on Burnell’s 35-yard TD catch 8:07 before halftime. But the Titans tied it when quarterback James Block hit Dustin Pellot down the right sideline for a 39-yard scoring strike. Caton’s run tied it 14-14 with 4:30 left in the half. The second half was scoreless.
Schwab had the ball first in overtime, but the series ended on a fumble, recovered by lineman Jamaal Overton, setting up Caton’s heroics. On a play called 38 G Sweep, Caton rolled right behind a wall of Titans blockers untouched into the end zone.
The play showed Bufkin that his Panthers need to work on outside containment. “We didn’t have a clue, and that was plainly obvious on that play,” he said.
Block finished 5-for-17 for 98 yards. Pellot caught two passes for 56. Walker added a sack to his fumble recovery, Chris Harper had a sack and a fumble recovery, Frank Mbanusi had two sacks and Irwin Poole one for the Titans, who recorded six sacks and three fumble recoveries.
Camarillo went 10-for-26 for 177 yards, Burnell had five catches for 80 yards and Lyle Spencer three for 46. Burnell also had 76 yards on six returns and two carries for 25. Schwab outgained the Titans 200-168.
Derrell Hawthorne had an interception and a recovery, Rico Randall and Kevin Dorsey a sack each and Spencer and Joshua Boring one recovery each.
Both teams hurt themselves with penalties — the Panthers were flagged 18 times for 135 yards and the Titans 15 for 116.
“First game jitters,” Bowman said. “We made some mistakes. Our defense kept us in it. Total team effort.”
“We were outcoached, not outplayed,” Bufkin said. “The guys played hard. I’m extremely proud of them.”