YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Just as all appeared lost for Yokota in its season-opener Friday, along came the Panthers’ “A-Train” to save the day.

Junior scatback Anthony McNeill racked up 209 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns in the second half — including a 66-yard return of a fumble recovery — as Yokota scored 21 unanswered points to rally from a two-TD deficit and survive a scare from Nile C. Kinnick in a 21-12 victory at Berkey Field.

“We knew somebody was going to make a big play … and Anthony’s play was what we were looking for,” Yokota coach Tim Pujol said. “Apropos that it was him, since he carried so much of the offensive load.”

McNeill ran 30 times for 226 yards and scored on 5- and 4-yard runs. He finished with 295 all-purpose yards.

The game-breaking play came as Kinnick led 12-7 marching into Panthers’ territory at the 34-yard-line early in the fourth quarter.

Red Devils quarterback Jeff Galang handed to backup tailback Josh Richmond, who had trouble handling the ball.

McNeill said he saw Richmond “bobbling the ball. I tried to tackle him, saw the ball, snatched it away and just took off.”

He rambled untouched and scored with 10:21 remaining, sending the Yokota side of the field into hysterics and a Kinnick home crowd of 400 into stunned silence.

Early on, the Red Devils’ faithful were the ones with everything to cheer for. Reigning Japan Football League rushing champion Larynzo Abernathy got Kinnick on the board on its first possession, capping a 13-play, 77-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring run.

He opened the third quarter with a 66-yard scoring scamper and Kinnick appeared to be headed for its first victory over Yokota in eight years.

Bolstering that impression were Yokota’s first-half mistakes: three turnovers and two costly penalties. Then the miscues began to bedevil the Red Devils, who had three turnovers and dropped a pair of passes that ended two possessions.

McNeill got the Panthers on the board halfway through the third quarter with a 5-yard TD run. Then, with 6:34 left in the game, he closed the scoring with his 4-yard burst.

McNeill, who rushed for 143 yards in the second half, credited his teammates.

“We struggled with our blocking in the first half but we talked in the locker room at halftime and everybody — the linemen, the backs, everybody — stepped up and I just followed them,” he said.

Abernathy’s long TD run seemed to awaken the Panthers, Pujol said.

“That’s where the resolve and toughness of these kids really paid off,” he said. “I knew these guys would not give up. They laid their guts out there. It was beautiful.”

The defeat left Kinnick coach Matt Martinez resolving to do better when the teams next meet at Yokota on Oct. 13.

“We were a good football team for three quarters,” Martinez said. “We weren’t consistent in the fourth quarter and that cost us the game. If we correct those mistakes, on Oct. 13 we have a chance to rectify that.”

Abernathy finished with 205 all-purpose yards “but we still lost,” Martinez said. “We have to have him play a big game and win to make it count.”

Japan high school football

W L Pct. PF PA

Yokota 1 0 1.000 21 12

Zama American 0 0 .000 0 0

Robert D. Edgren 0 0 .000 0 0

Nile C. Kinnick 0 1 .000 12 21

Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools

W L Pct. PF PA

Yokota 1 0 1.000 21 12

Zama American 0 0 .000 0 0

American School In Japan 0 0 .000 0 0

Nile C. Kinnick 0 1 .000 12 21

Friday’s game

Yokota 21, Kinnick 12

Saturday’s game

Edgren at Zama, 10 a.m.

Saturday, Sept. 9

Yokota at ASIJ, 1 p.m.

Edgren at Kinnick, 1 p.m.

author picture
Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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