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Kadena squeaks by Daegu to stay unbeaten

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 16, 2011

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – After three seasons of winning by lopsided margins, Kadena suddenly is finding itself pulling out victories by the closest of margins.

Freshman Justin Sego scored from 18 yards out and Joseph Hermon ran in the two-point conversion in the third quarter, rallying the Panthers (3-0) to a 10-8 win over Daegu American on Friday in Kadena’s first game on its home field in more than 10 years.

For a team that outscored its foes 665-105 from 2008-2010, the two-time reigning Far East Division I champion has had tough goes with reigning Far East Division II champions the last two years.

Kadena won 24-14 at Zama American last Sept. 18. And in its game last Sept. 11 at then-Division II runner-up Daegu American, the Panthers also won, but by a deceptive 22-6 margin.

“Daegu is always tough,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said. “Never have an easy game with Daegu. They always bring a quality program. When you talk Far East Division II, you have to talk about them first.”

Friday’s game was also the second close call the Panthers had in as many weeks. On Sept. 9, Kadena survived Kubasaki 15-14 in the first of their two regular-season meetings at Mike Petty Stadium.

“We’re still making young mistakes,” Mendoza said. “The learning curve will have to change, because we’re playing good teams.”

Gage Bongo recorded a first-quarter safety to account for Kadena’s other two points.

Lee Wright rushed for Daegu’s only touchdown, a 54-yarder in the second quarter. He finished with a team-high 64 yards on five carries.

The game was played in a stiff wind, caused by nearby Tropical Storm Roke. The game had originally been scheduled for Saturday, but was played a day earlier because of Roke’s proximity to the island.

The wind was “definitely a factor,” said coach Ken Walter of the Warriors (0-2). “We couldn’t do a lot with the wind. We didn’t make as many mistakes, took better care of the football. It was a good defensive game by both sides.”

Since 2000, Kadena had played all its home games under the lights at McDonald Stadium or Habu Field at Ryukyu Middle School. The latter underwent renovation over the summer, but was deemed unfit to play and school officials opted for games on its unlit home field.

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