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Kubasaki's Godfrey Wray, the game's leading ground-gainer, tries to elude the tackle of Kadena's Trent Fowler.
Kubasaki's Godfrey Wray, the game's leading ground-gainer, tries to elude the tackle of Kadena's Trent Fowler. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – A fumble-return touchdown by Jacob Acosta proved to be the game’s only points Friday as Kubasaki snapped an 11-game, six-season football losing streak to Kadena.

Acosta, a junior linebacker, scooped up a loose ball at the Kadena 12-yard line and ran unopposed into the end zone with 1 minute, 4 seconds left before halftime. The Dragons defense held firm from there in a 6-0 victory over the Panthers.

“It was just instinct, to just try to get the ball and get it into the end zone,” Acosta said after the game.

Kubasaki coach Tony Alvarado gets the water-bucket celebration treatment from his Dragons players.
Kubasaki coach Tony Alvarado gets the water-bucket celebration treatment from his Dragons players. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Dragons coach Tony Alvarado said that’s something he and his assistants are trying to teach their players: “Be aggressive, come hard and go until they hear the whistle. And there was no whistle” on that play Alvarado said. “That’s what it was. Play to the whistle.”

It was a defensive struggle; the teams combined for just over two trips up and down the field. Kubasaki held Kadena’s offense to just 89 yards on 38 plays, but the Dragons did little better: 121 yards on 48 plays. Kubasaki forced three turnovers and recorded two sacks.

And Kubasaki lost both its starting and backup quarterbacks, juniors A.J. Millette and Carlos Robles, during the game and finished with senior Elijah Ferrell-Ayers in the shotgun.

Elijah Ferrell-Ayers, Kubasaki's third quarterback, eludes the pursuit of Kadena's Jason Doll.
Elijah Ferrell-Ayers, Kubasaki's third quarterback, eludes the pursuit of Kadena's Jason Doll. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“We are so banged up,” Alvarado said. “This was a physical game against a solid team. I’m proud of the guys in backup positions who stepped up and took leadership roles.”

Kubasaki had not beaten Kadena since a 53-28 home win on Sept. 18, 2015. The Panthers opened this season on Sept. 24 by winning at Kubasaki 21-20.

“Six long years,” said Alvarado, who was a defensive assistant that whole time prior to assuming the head coaching reins this season. “It feels good because I’ve been here for most of these and it feels extra good because we did it on their field.”

Kubasaki defensive end Ian Lyons tries to bring down Kadena quarterback Braxton Reece.
Kubasaki defensive end Ian Lyons tries to bring down Kadena quarterback Braxton Reece. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Both teams had their share of chances to score, but the Dragons only got as far as Kadena’s 3-yard line at the start of the fourth quarter, where they turned it over on downs, and the Panthers only as far as Kubasaki’s 1-yard line when they fumbled the ball away.

Running backs set the offensive pace for both teams, Trent Fowler rushing for 71 yards on 18 carries for Kadena and Godfrey Wray 103 yards on 26 attempts for the Dragons. The teams combined for 82 rushing plays and only four pass plays.

In addition to fumbles, penalties also hurt the Panthers, coach Sergio Mendoza said.

Kubasaki running back Jalen Keller scampers around left end against Kadena.
Kubasaki running back Jalen Keller scampers around left end against Kadena. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“Kubasaki is a really good, well-coached team, but we made a lot of mistakes,” Mendoza said. “We’re going to come back stronger next week, I assure you.”

The teams meet again Oct. 15. The game scheduled for Friday has been moved to Oct. 22.

Kadena running back Trent Fowler leans for a couple of extra yards against Kubasaki.
Kadena running back Trent Fowler leans for a couple of extra yards against Kubasaki. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)
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