Misawa shuts downs Atsugi in USFJ-AFL opener
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Balanced offense and opportunistic defense proved to be a winning combination Saturday for the host Misawa Marauders in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League season opener.
Mark Fox caught a touchdown pass and intercepted a pass, Fred Ellis threw two TD passes and the Marauders scored 19 third-quarter points in a 28-0 victory over the Atsugi White Dolphins.
“The defense was unbelievable,” said coach Mark Hemphill of a unit that forced five turnovers. Besides Fox, defensive backs Ladaryl Maxville and William Cheese each intercepted passes and defensive back Stacey Green forced two fumbles for the Marauders.
“We closed down their passing game, ran some stunts and blitzes and the defensive backfield was awesome,” Hemphill said.
The Marauders’ defense scored the game’s first points when linebacker Orentlal Steward made a tackle in the end zone for a first-quarter safety.
Still, the game remained close, with Ellis’ 38-yard second-quarter scoring strike to Mike Jackson the only other points of the first half. Atsugi got to the Misawa 12-yard line late in the second quarter, and earlier missed a 33-yard field-goal attempt wide to the right.
Misawa broke it open in the third quarter. Fox snagged a 12-yard TD pass from David Valencia and Jamey Crawford and Shandon Lane added touchdown runs of 16 and 8 yards as the Marauders, who dressed 46 players, gradually wore down the Dolphins, who brought 30.
“They ran out of gas, and our coaches did a good job of rotating our players to keep them fresh,” Hemphill said.
“It was a learning experience,” first-year Dolphins coach Daniel Estrada said. “We have some growing to do.”
Floyd White forced two fumbles and made 13 solo tackles, John Jones had 12 tackles and blocked two extra-point tries, Phillip Hill rushed nine times for 30 yards and had 12 tackles and Greg Thomas had 42 yards on 14 tries for Atsugi, which has been outscored 324-21 in its past eight games.
Hemphill said he was impressed by Atsugi’s never-give-up, physical nature. The teams meet again July 30 to close the regular season, and Hemphill says he’s bracing for a different experience.
“I’m expecting a dogfight,” Hemphill said. “Atsugi has some athletes. They bring the heat. They’re very aggressive. We’ll be in a war when we go down there. They’ll be a team to be reckoned with.”
“We’re looking forward to another good battle with Misawa this season,” Estrada said.
W L Pct. PF PA
Misawa 1 0 1.000 28 0
Yokosuka 0 0 .000 0 0
Yokota 0 0 .000 0 0
Atsugi 0 1 .000 0 28
Saturday, June 11
Misawa 28, Atsugi 0
Yokosuka at Yokota, ppd.
Saturday, June 18
Yokota at Atsugi, 4 p.m.
Saturday, June 25
Misawa vs. Yokota at Atsugi Naval Air Facility, 3 p.m.
Yokosuka at Atsugi, 6 p.m.