Trailing by three in the fourth quarter and with Taegu American’s defense stopping Osan American cold, Cougars coach Tony Alvarado reached into his bag of tricks for a winning formula: a 55-yard halfback option pass from Carlos Albaladejo to Mel Jones.

The gadget play with three minutes left rallied the Cougars past the Warriors 27-23 on Saturday at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field. It was the first of two games to determine the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea Football League representative and host of the Far East Class A championship game on Nov. 5. Taegu visits Osan on Oct. 29 in Game 2.

Elsewhere, Shawn Seevers and Rafai Eddy accounted for two touchdowns each as the American School In Japan maintained Japan’s best overall record (4-0) and took a half-game lead in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools by topping Nile C. Kinnick 21-7 at Mustang Valley in Tokyo.

And Guam High closed its Interscholastic Football League season on a down note, falling 34-8 to John F. Kennedy at Ramsey Field in Upper Tumon. The Panthers (1-4) clinched the fifth seed in the island quarterfinals and will face Simon Sanchez (2-3) on Saturday at a time and site to be determined.

Osan American 27, Taegu American 23On a scorching, humid afternoon at Camp Walker, Osan American and Taegu American traded the lead four times, until Alvarado’s gamble on the halfback option came up sevens and the Cougars seized the lead for good. On their last possession, the Warriors drove deep into Osan territory but misfired on three straight passes and Osan ran out the clock.

“It seemed like it would come down to whoever had the ball last,” Alvarado said. “They were shutting us down. We had to do something. And we got it.”

“It was one of those things that we couldn’t help,” Warriors coach George Speer said. One of his safeties fell down on the play, leaving Jones open for the reception.

It was a vastly different Osan team than the one that lost 29-12 to Seoul American in the season opener a week earlier, Speer said. “They played well, much better than they did last week. And we didn’t step up.”

Albaladejo’s game-clinching TD pass came after the Warriors rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit to go ahead by nine points. Quarterback Daniel Pressley sneaked in on a fourth-and-3 play, and Stephen Scott added a 1-yard TD run. Taegu converted on a pair of two-point conversions to make it 23-14.

“I was really impressed with how well they came out in the second half,” Alvarado said of Taegu. “They did a great job of play-calling.”

The Cougars struck quickly, on the game’s first possession, with Will Rapoza scoring from 12 yards out en route to a game-high 209 yards on 17 carries.

The Warriors responded on Scott’s 9-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession, then Osan went up by seven at halftime on quarterback Shawn Shoults’ 1-yard sneak.

Osan can earn host rights to the Class A title game by beating Taegu or losing to the Warriors by no more than three points on Oct. 29, while the Warriors must beat the Cougars by five points or more.

“I hope we can rise to the occasion,” Speer said.

“It’s going to be one heckuva game,” Alvarado said. “It does mean something. Nothing’s a gimme any more.”

American School In Japan 21, Nile C. Kinnick 7At Tokyo, Seevers threw 60 yards to Eddy for a first-half touchdown, then completed a 50-yarder to Khan Fukui and Rafai ran back a punt 85 yards for a score in the second half as the Mustangs (3-0 Kanto) won their first four games for the first time in school history.

They lead six-time defending champion Yokota (3-0, 2-0) by a half-game for best overall Japan record and for the Kanto Plain lead.

Mistakes, coupled with Eddy’s and Seevers’ play, conspired to undo the Red Devils (1-3, 1-2), coach Bill Schofield said. Kinnick had a punt blocked, botched a punt snap, threw an interception and dropped a pair of kickoffs that pinned the Red Devils deep in their own territory.

“Crucial mistakes at crucial times, and they capitalized,” Schofield said, adding that while Kinnick played better than it had in a 10-0 loss to ASIJ on Sept. 9 at Yokosuka Naval Base, “the second and fourth quarters were terrible.”

Quarterback Jeff Galang’s 1-yard TD run and Daniel Appleman’s extra-point kick with 1:01 left in the first quarter gave Kinnick its lone points. Galang was 7-for-15 for 57 yards, Jeff Battle caught three passes for 38 yards and Lorenzo Abernathy ran 12 times for 88 yards.

John F. Kennedy 34, Guam High 8While the Panthers made some adjustments on offense that yielded a season-high 193 yards, two fumbles and an interception in the third quarter helped the Islanders break open the contest wat Upper Tumon with 21 points.

“We played these guys pretty well,” coach Tom Hildreth said of a Panthers team that held the Islanders to 86 first-half yards, “but we shot ourselves in the foot” in the third period.

Ashton Adams ran for a season-high 65 yards on 12 carries and scored Guam High’s lone touchdown, a 43-yard fourth-quarter run, and Chris Hoyle caught a two-point pass. Josh Carpenter racked up eight tackles and Tommy Strahan seven.

Now, the Panthers turn their attention to a Sharks squad that beat them 14-0 in the season’s third game on Sept. 17.

“We keep improving week to week,” Hildreth said. “We just can’t get over the hump.”

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