Edgren downs Daegu, grabs playoff spot
September 29, 2012
CAMP WALKER, South Korea – Tristan Jefferson and Robert D. Edgren clinched a berth in the Far East Division II football title game for the first time in four years, but had to endure a rough journey to Korea to get the job done.
The junior quarterback tossed touchdown passes of 37 yards to Khalil Williams and 90 to Louis Murphy, who also ran for a touchdown, and Santiago Fleming returned an interception 60 yards for a score as the Eagles romped 30-8 over Daegu High on Saturday at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field.
But in terms of the physical toll of the journey, plus injuries to key players Chris Finco and Leo Austin, “this was the hardest game in 18 years of football that I’ve ever coached,” Eagles coach Blaine Miller said.
The Eagles flew through severe turbulence during the flight from Narita to Kimhae international airports on Friday, endured two four-hour layovers and two three-hour bus rides. During the game, Finco suffered a finger fracture and Austin a concussion.
“And that’s a tough team,” Miller said of the Warriors (1-4 overall, 1-2 D-II). “Their record doesn’t represent the kind of team they are. They hit.”
With the victory, the Eagles dethroned the two-time champion Warriors and effectively shut Korea out of the chase for berths in the Nov. 10 Far East Division II title game for the first time since the Far East playoffs began in 2005. Edgren returns to the title game for the first time since winning its third straight in 2008.
The title game will either be played at Zama American (3-3 overall, 2-0 D-II) or at Edgren (2-3, 2-0); the two play each other Oct. 5 at Misawa Air Base and Oct. 19 at Camp Zama.
“We had a great game plan, a great week of practice, (but) today, we needed everybody,” Miller said of having to go to the well for young players to replace the injured. “We got a lot of playing time in the fourth quarter for our young kids. We had sophomores and freshmen who stepped in and played.”
Jefferson was 6-for-14 for 182 yards and had 207 yards total offense. Murphy caught three passes for 118 yards and finished with 143 yards total offense. Williams racked up 94 all-purpose yards. Murphy and Williams each recovered fumbles, Joel Loy recovered two and Murphy recorded a sack. The Eagles gained 278 offensive yards.
Most of the Warriors’ 194 yards came in the final period with the outcome decided. Ronald McLean ran 21 times for 140 yards, including a touchdown with just over a minute left. He also blocked a third-quarter punt that went out of the end zone for a safety.
Key to the Warriors’ fortunes was losing quarterback Steven Robinet with a leg injury. “That made us one dimensional,” coach Ken Walter said.
“I’m impressed” with Edgren, he said. Miller “does a great job with that crew. Good quarterback, great athletes.”
With Daegu equally young as Edgren, “you never know what you’re going to get,” Walter said. “We have to rely on these young players and they’re going to make mistakes. We still have the Korea title to play for.”