Dolphins slip, slide to victory in opener
Stars and Stripes June 2, 2003
ATSUGI NAVAL AIR FACILITY, Japan — Javar Williams’ 70-yard punt return for a touchdown early in the third quarter Saturday broke a scoreless tie and lifted Atsugi past Yokota 6-0 in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League season opener.
Rain from Tropical Storm Linfa fell throughout the game on a dreary day at Reid Memorial Stadium, creating puddles from end zone to end zone, with ankle-deep water on the asphalt track surrounding the stadium.
Williams’ game-winning play began the way most did on Saturday, with the ball slipping through his hands while fielding a punt.
Williams scooped up the ball and then spotted White Dolphins blocker Nathaniel Montgomery upfield.
“I knew he was going to take somebody’s head off,” Williams said. “I just followed him up the sideline and it was all clear from there.”
Williams left Raiders punter Raun Collier, the last man with a chance to stop him, sloshing through the water at the Yokota 40, and somehow kept his feet into the end zone.
Other than that, neither team established any momentum. Each gained just 78 yards and combined for 12 first downs.
Atsugi turned the ball over five times, including a fumble into the end zone on first-and-goal at the Yokota 1. The Raiders failed to finish two deep drives.
“It was us against Mother Nature today,” said Yokota coach Chuck Wichert, whose squad fell in its return to the league after suspending operations midway through last season.
“The ball was too slippery. We couldn’t get anything going. It was a hard-fought game by both teams. It could have gone either way.”
Yokota hosts the Misawa Marauders on Saturday, while Atsugi travels to Misawa on June 14.