Misawa blanks Yokota, moves to top of USFJ-AFL standings
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — For the first time since winning the 2005 championship, Misawa finds itself atop the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League standings.
Ralph Elliott accounted for two touchdowns and the Jets’ defense forced seven turnovers, with Demetrius Grant returning a fumble for a TD as Misawa blanked Yokota 28-0 Saturday at Yokosuka’s Berkey Field.
The victory propelled the Jets (3-1) to a half-game lead over two-time defending champion Yokosuka (2-1) in the standings.
Jets first-year coach Jeremy Sanders said he and assistant Fred Ellis “had a vision at the start of the season of what we thought this team could be, and it seems to be working, seems to be paying dividends.”
He had hoped, he said, to just be competitive.
“Our goal was to build a strong team,” Sanders said. “But where we are now, that’s a bonus.”
The Jets and Yokosuka have split their two regular-season games. They meet at Misawa’s Hillside Field on Aug. 9 in what will decide the league’s regular-season title and host rights to the Torii Bowl on Aug. 30.
“We have a long way to go yet,” Sanders said.
Elliott went 6-for-15 for 110 yards. He sneaked 1 yard for a first-quarter touchdown, and capped the scoring with a 15-yards touchdown pass to Justin Jordan in the final quarter.
Reid Merriwether ran 15 yards for a third-quarter touchdown. Grant’s fumble-return touchdown covered 30 yards.
The Jets’ defense permitted the Warriors only as far as Misawa’s 9-yard line with four minutes left.
“We had a system in place on defense that worked perfectly,” Sanders said.
Yokota fell to 0-3 and faces an uphill battle if it wishes to host a playoff game. The Warriors must win their next two games — Saturday at Misawa and Aug. 16 at Yokosuka— if it hopes to escape the basement.
The Warriors played many new, inexperienced faces who replaced veterans who had other engagements, assistant coach Herbert Fletcher said.
“We’ll get a lot of those guys back” for the next two games Fletcher said. “I like our chances.”