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YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Zama American was outgained by 53 yards, and had to hold off a last-second threat to finish the job. But Zama American’s football team can now call itself a league champion for the first time in school history.

Mike Jorgenson ran for a touchdown and passed for a score, and Ashton Norwood had an interception and a fumble recovery as the Trojans held on to beat Nile C. Kinnick 21-14 Friday at Yokosuka’s Berkey Field.

Zama finished 6-2 overall and 5-1 in DODEA Japan, tied with Yokota, but the Trojans held a plus-11 point differential in head-to-head play with the Panthers. That gave Zama its first DODEA Japan title and ended Yokota’s Pacific-record run of 10 straight league championships.

“That’s great, to have a championship after our name,” coach Steven Merrell said. “It’s wonderful.”

The title comes on the heels of a 2008 season in which the Trojans finished 0-7. “Especially where this program has been, it’s nice to bring a championship home,” Merrell said.

The only time Zama previously won a football league title was in 1994, when the Trojans shared the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools crown with American School In Japan.

Friday’s title clincher was anything but easy.

The Trojans for the second time this season had to rally from a deficit against the Red Devils, who got first-half touchdowns from Taylor Myers (61 yards) and Elijah Gamble (3) to keep it close. Gamble gained 185 yards on a school-record 40 carries and Myers contributed 81 yards on six carries.

Jorgenson’s 42-yard TD pass to Matt Cole tied it 7-7, and his 1-yard sneak put Zama ahead 14-7. But it wasn’t until Ryan Blackstock’s 30-yard third-quarter TD run that Zama went ahead to stay.

Zama will visit Daegu American next Saturday in the Trojans’ first Class A title game appearance. Merrell said Zama must do a better job of containing defensively and controlling the line on offense to win.

“They’re a quality team, so we have to be ready to play,” Merrell said.

JapanAmerican School In Japan 39, Yokota 6: At Yokota Air Base, Hayden Jardine went 13-for-21 for 226 yards, including TD passes of 42 yards to Alex Busam and 61 to Chris Kleindl as the Mustangs (7-2) won their first outright Kanto title since 1983 and swept their first season series from the Panthers (6-4) since 1998.

Ryan Christianson ran back an interception 55 yards for a touchdown and a punt 36 yards for a score. Busam had a 4-yard touchdown run and Nathan Kwon ran 49 yards for another.

DeEric Harvin got Yokota’s lone points on an 11-yard fourth-quarter run. He had 86 yards on 16 carries plus two interceptions. Gerald McCloud had 132 yards on 22 carries for Yokota, which went 1-4 in its last five games, its worst stretch since ’98, after winning its first five games.

Tom Jardine contributed to this report.

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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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