Kent Onuoha was a sprinter last decade at Kansas State. He proved why on Saturday — and boosted Joint Task Force, last year’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League South Division cellar-dweller, into the league championship Torii Bowl for the first time.

Onuoha returned a kickoff 82 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown with 28 seconds left, giving the Wolfpack a 20-18 South Division title-game triumph over defending league champion Foster at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium. Foster had gone ahead 23 seconds earlier on a Frank Bryant-to-Roger Veal touchdown pass.

Joint Task Force will now travel to Yokota Air Base to face the North champion Warriors in the Torii Bowl on Saturday at Yokota High School’s Bonk Field. Kickoff time is 4 p.m.

“Just in time,” Onuoha said, adding that from the moment he caught the kickoff, “I felt the pressure was on me to score a touchdown, to do something. But then again, I trust my teammates to make the good blocks.”

That they did. They formed a cordon down the left sideline, Onuoha turned the corner and was off to the races, shrugging off a tackle near the Foster 10 and cruising into the end zone.

The left-wall return is something JTF installed in its last game “to counter Foster,” Onuoha said. “They’re a very big, aggressive team. But we did our best, to do what we can do.”

For its part, Foster “took the play off,” offensive coordinator Gerald Sharber said. “This happens sometimes. That’s the way the ball bounces. All it takes is one play. They made the one play happen. You can’t take a play off. That’s what happens when you take a play off.”

The Wolfpack (6-2) denied the Bulldogs (4-3) a chance to defend their 30-6 Torii Bowl win last Aug. 29 at Mike Petty, despite being outgained 181-41 by Foster’s wide-open, no-huddle spread attack. Foster also got 4½ sacks by Jonathan Johnson and two fumble recoveries by W.L. McMullen.

“We believed. We simply believed,” said coach Darell Keith, whose Torii Wolfpack a year ago went 0-5 in the regular season and 1-6 overall.

JTF went up 6-0 at first quarter’s end on Mike Geddie’s 10-yard TD pass to Joseph Huewitt. Foster answered with Bryant’s 3-yard quarterback sneak and Desmond Fagan’s 15-yard TD scamper in the second quarter.

The Wolfpack could have scored more, but had a touchdown pass called back on a penalty and another scoring toss ruled out of bounds.

Finally, JTF broke through on Darrell Miller’s 2-yard end run with 11:25 left. But Geddie fumbled on JTF’s next possession, setting up Veal’s TD catch and setting the stage for Onuoha’s heroics.

Of the Torii Bowl, Keith said he’ll probably be able to bring about half his roster. “Whatever we take, we’re going to take it up there and fight as hard as we can.”

Apprised of the South title game outcome, Yokota coach Selwyn Jones said: “Come on down.”

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