MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan – Three stood out as a key number in Saturday’s Torii Bowl. Three touchdown passes by Douglas Brown. Three TD catches by Davonn MacMillan. And three times Misawa has won the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title, all three times at home.
Brown hit MacMillan for the last of those scoring hook-ups, an 11-yarder with 2:50 left, as the North Division champion Jets rallied from a 13-12 deficit to beat the South champion Kadena Dragons 20-13 at Misawa’s Hillside Stadium.
With the win, the Jets wiped out the bitterness of their 2011 Torii Bowl loss, 24-20 to Foster – the first time a road team ever won the USFJ-AFL title game.
Then, as was the case Saturday, the Jets were the home team, and this time they took advantage of familiarity, its field and crowd, “to bring the trophy back to Misawa and up North,” coach Jeremy Sanders said.
He praised the play of Brown, who went 14-for-20 for 220 yards, and MacMillan, who caught seven passes for 105 yards, and a defense that held its ground in the final period.
“He got some very critical first downs for us that kept moving the sticks, made the right plays at the right parts of the game. He showed real poise,” Sanders said of Brown.
MacMillan played a “monster game,” Sanders added. “He made some monster catches and broke quite a few tackles on them.”
Brown and MacMillan struck on the Jets’ first play, a 50-yard scoring strike. Kadena responded later in the first quarter on quarterback Cory O’Cull’s 5-yard TD run. The first quarter ended 6-6.
With Kadena driving deep in Misawa territory, the Jets’ Brandon Childress sacked O’Cull, forcing a fumble, which Josh Singletary returned for Misawa to the Dragons’ 32, leading to Brown’s 7-yard TD pass to MacMillan to make it 12-6 Jets 3:12 before halftime.
Just 3:12 into the second half, O’Cull and the Dragons responded. Dishawn Harvey caught a 22-yard scoring pass to tie it; the extra-point kick made it 13-12 Dragons.
Kadena’s defense, which halted a Jets drive just inches from the goal line in the first half, held firm again when Misawa drove to the Dragons’ 15 and attempted a 30-yard field goal. But Reggie Mebane took the ball from the Jets’ holder, squelching that scoring chance.
Following a short punt, the Jets went ahead for good on Brown’s final TD pass to MacMillan. Kadena had one last chance, but Childress intercepted an O’Cull pass and Misawa ran out the clock.
“Misawa made it happen,” said Kadena coach Robert Friend, who used to play for Sanders at Misawa. “It was a good game. I’m proud of everything. I can’t ask for anything else (from the Dragons). We’ll be ready next year.”
The home team won the Torii Bowl for the first time since 2010, after it had won every time since the league organized into its current form in 2000. Misawa has won three of the five times it’s played in the game. It was the first Torii Bowl appearance for Kadena, which won the old Okinawa Football League in its only two seasons, 2004 and ’05.