Craig, Foster finally savor taste of championship
Stars and Stripes August 31, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Twice this decade, Tim Craig suffered silently as his Foster Bulldogs came close but so far in the Okinawa Football League. On Saturday, all that changed as Foster won its first U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title.
Craig, Foster’s defensive captain, helped score a safety and added 2 ½ sacks. The Bulldogs had eight sacks and forced eight turnovers, and Foster scored on both sides of the ball to rout Yokota 30-6 in Saturday’s Torii Bowl at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium.
“It feels great,” said Craig, who along with teammate Jonathan Molloy are the lone remaining players from the old OFL. “It took a lot to finally put our team together, and to come out here and be able to compete like this is awesome.”
The victory capped an 8-0 season for the Bulldogs, the USFJ-AFL’s Southern Division champions. They became the first Marine team to win an interarea championship since the 4th Marine Panthers of Okinawa clobbered Yokota 43-13 and Misawa 33-7 in two 1985 playoff games.
For Yokota, the loss marked a bitter end to a season in which the Warriors lost their first three games, then rallied to take four of the next five only to fall in the Torii Bowl.
It was the third loss in three Torii Bowls for Yokota. The Warriors lost 12-6 at Yokosuka in 2000 and 30-21 at Misawa in 2005.
Outgoing coach Herb Fletcher blamed lack of focus on his players’ parts for Saturday’s defeat.
“We had a month to prepare for this,” said Fletcher, whose Warriors hadn’t played since edging North regular-season champion Yokosuka 18-12 on Aug. 1. “We picked the wrong time to not be focused.”
Early on, neither offense generated much, with Foster only taking a 2-0 lead on a safety when Craig and Tim Grant sacked Yokota quarterback Ryan Jones in the end zone as the second quarter started.
Yokota took a brief 6-2 lead on Devon Brown’s 13-yard fumble-return TD. But Foster then scored 28 unanswered points, as Terry Brawner tossed TD passes of 15 yards to Quentin White and 32 to Corey Moore. Danny Ramirez blocked a punt and covered it in Yokota’s end zone for a score.
“My hat’s off to Yokota,” Craig said. “We came out and just executed a little bit more. That’s the best the team has executed all season.”
Adam Lashley contributed two sacks and a fumble recovery, and Jamar Jarrell added a sack and a recovery for Foster. Brawner went 7-for-15 for 107 yards. Moore had four catches for 43 yards.
Yokota ran 74 plays to Foster’s 49 but could only generate 18 net yards of offense. Battling through injuries, Jones went 7-for-22 for 56 yards with three interceptions.
“They played like they wanted to win,” Fletcher said. “They deserved the title.”