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Kinnick running back Wendell Harrison gets sandwiched by Perry defenders Zeke Santoscoy and Shion Fleming.
Kinnick running back Wendell Harrison gets sandwiched by Perry defenders Zeke Santoscoy and Shion Fleming. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – They engaged in a tight battle the last time they met. On Friday, the Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils left nothing to chance.

Wendell Harrison ran for three touchdowns, Zeke DeLaughter passed for two more and Kinnick scored the game’s first 34 points en route to a 40-7 rout, spoiling Matthew C. Perry’s homecoming and capturing the DODEA-Japan football title for 2021.

What changed so much in a four-week span when Kinnick edged Perry 28-21?

Kinnick quarterback Zeke DeLaughter eludes Pery defender Kirby Kendrick.
Kinnick quarterback Zeke DeLaughter eludes Pery defender Kirby Kendrick. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“We’ve just evolved as a football team,” said coach Dan Joley of the Red Devils (7-0), adding that he may have called three or four of the plays and DeLaughter handled most of the offensive play-calling.

“I checked in on a few plays, but Zeke did the rest,” Joley said. “It was fun to watch. It was great to see these guys truly understand football.”

As for the Samurai (5-2), the grind of seven games after a gap year caused by the coronavirus pandemic simply left them with too many bumps and bruises entering Friday’s game, coach Frank Macias said.

Perry's Denzel Gray races headlong toward a gaggle of Kinnick defenders.
Perry's Denzel Gray races headlong toward a gaggle of Kinnick defenders. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“We looked like we could almost match their team speed the last time” Perry played Kinnick, Macias said. “But a month of wear and tear after that and tonight was a mismatch. That’s the difference between a Division I and a Division II program.”

DeLaughter, who went 6-for-10 for 147 yards, set the tone by hitting Ryo Nishiyama for a 9-yard touchdown pass 69 seconds into the contest.

A 14-yard DeLaughter pass to Kou Nishiyama made it 14-0 10 minutes, 47 seconds before intermission. Harrison would score on Kinnick’s next three possessions, touchdown runs of 3, 11 and 1 yard - the latter triggering a running clock for the rest of the game.

Perry running back Denzel Gray tries to elude a Kinnick tackle as teammate D.J. Jans looks to assist.
Perry running back Denzel Gray tries to elude a Kinnick tackle as teammate D.J. Jans looks to assist. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Perry broke through on the first possession of the second half against Kinnick’s backups, with D.J. Jans breaking the shutout on a 7-yard TD run. Red Devils backup quarterback Michael Goodfellow ran 2 yards for a score on the game’s final play.

“I’m just happy to have the players have a season like this,” Joley said. “After last year and to see the joy on their faces after convincingly winning a ball game, it was great to see.”

Kou Nishiyama had 77 yards on three catches and Harrison ran 18 times for 137 yards for Kinnick. Jans totaled 76 yards on 14 attempts. Roy Clayton was held to 2-for-6 passing for 4 yards, and Shion Fleming, with nine touchdowns this season, did not catch a pass.

Perrry running back D.J. Jans finds himself hemmed in by the Kinnick defense.
Perrry running back D.J. Jans finds himself hemmed in by the Kinnick defense. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

The season’s not over yet for either team; the Samurai visit Yokota next Friday to play Robert D. Edgren in their second neutral-site rendezvous; kickoff is at 4:30 p.m. Kinnick next travels to American School In Japan for a 6 p.m. Friday kickoff.

On one of the few times things didn't go right for Kinnick, quarterback Zeke DeLaughter is sacked by Perry's Kirby Kendrick.
On one of the few times things didn't go right for Kinnick, quarterback Zeke DeLaughter is sacked by Perry's Kirby Kendrick. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Correction

Michael Goodfellow was misidentified in an earlier version of this article.
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