CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – A healthy dose of Jarrett Mitchell rushing yards and bend-but-don’t-break defensive play Saturday kept Kubasaki in the driver’s seat for a spot in next month’s Far East Division I title game, and eliminated Nile C. Kinnick from contention.
Mitchell, a junior, breached the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight season and Tyler Smith ran for a score as the Dragons (5-1) downed the Red Devils 28-14.
Though Kubasaki still holds command in the chase for D-I title-game berths at 3-0, a half-game ahead of Yokota, coach Fred Bales refused to consider playing on Nov. 17 a foregone conclusion.
“It’s week by week,” he said. “I billed this for the kids as a playoff game, and every game is a playoff game. Every point matters now. They’re all playoff games as far as I’m concerned.”
The Dragons now enter a critical two-game stretch in which they visit Kadena for the Panthers’ homecoming on Friday, then entertain Yokota on Oct. 27 in a rematch of last year’s D-I championship, won by Yokota 34-6 on Nov. 12.
Mitchell scored on runs of 38, 45 and 62 yards, finishing with 207 yards on 12 carries and giving him a Pacific-leading 1,015 yards on 89 carries with nine touchdowns, one TD behind Pacific co-leaders Morgan Breazell and Raymond Butler of Yokota and Andre Encarnacion of Zama American.
Smith put the Dragons on the scoreboard with a 22-yard run; he finished with 55 yards on seven carries, and in the gusty conditions completed 2 of 4 passes for 35 yards.
Aaron Stravers, a former Red Devil suiting up against his old team, recorded a team-high 11 tackles and ran for 47 yards on seven carries. Tyshon Butler had nine tackles and Kareem Key eight.
The defense only allowed two touchdowns, an 8-yard run by freshman LaTendre Paylor and a quarterback sneak by Dustin Wilson to start the fourth quarter.
“Kinnick played a good game,” Bales said. “They played hard, they fought hard. All games are big, but some are bigger than others.”
The loss dropped the Red Devils to 4-4 overall and, at 1-3, they no longer have a shot at overtaking either Okinawa team or Yokota for a slot in the D-I title game. But coach Dan Joley expressed pride in his charges.
“This is still a fine group of kids,” Joley said. “I love these kids. They’ve overcome some adversity. And they’ll keep fighting. We’re not done.”
Kinnick concludes its DODDS Japan season at Yokota on Friday and ends its Kanto Plain season when it visits American School In Japan on Oct. 26.
Adam Fondren contributed to this report.