CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – On a rainy, windy Friday thanks to approaching Typhoon Jelawat, a receiver named Key held the keys to victory for Kubasaki.
Kareem Key caught a 91-yard game-winning touchdown pass from Tyler Smith with three minutes left as the Dragons rallied to beat Kadena 14-7, taking a big step toward returning to the Far East Division I championship game in which they played and lost to Yokota last year.
On the game-winning play, Kadena geared its defense to the line to stuff the run and “we just took a shot and Kareem ran away from them,” said Dragons coach Fred Bales, back on the sideline after a week in the hospital due to an infection in his left leg.
Kubasaki (3-1 overall, 2-0 D-I) had to wait out a 30-minute lightning delay that came three minutes into the third quarter with the Panthers (2-1) leading 7-6. “If we couldn’t resume, they would have won,” Bales said. “Somehow, it blew through and we won the fourth quarter.”
The Dragons took the lead in the chase for berths in the D-I title game scheduled for Nov. 17. The top two teams in the division standings qualify.
Kubasaki earned half a victory with the win under the new regular season format. The Dragons and Panthers meet twice per season and play outlying teams just once.
Smith was just 1-for-3 passing, but the lone completion was a key one. He also ran 10 times for 45 yards.
Aaron Stravers added 35 yards on five carries plus eight tackles. Key had six tackles, Tyshon Butler nine tackles, Sho Green a fumble recovery and Jarrett Mitchell grabbed an interception on Kadena’s goal line on defense and rushed for 95 yards on 18 carries on offense, including a 64-yard touchdown run.
“We played great defense, drove the ball on offense, this was great getting back to playing Dragon football,” assistant coach Tony Alvarado said.
“Both teams met the challenge of the conditions,” Bales said. “The rain fell sideways, the wind blew hard. It was crazy. We were the ones who came out on the winning end.”
Joseph Hermon scored the lone points on a 40-yard first-half run for Kadena, which had not allowed a point in its first two games.
“It was just a freaky Friday,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said. “They beat us. They outplayed us. We’ll learn from this and move on.”
Kubasaki visits Osan American at 6 p.m. Saturday. Kadena is idle for the third time in four weeks.