MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan – Jeremy Sanders said he expected his Robert D. Edgren football team to improve from their nightmare 2016 season. But what he saw Friday, he said, was beyond his wildest expectations.
Senior running back Matt Keating paced the Eagles to their biggest win in almost two years, scoring three times, while defenders Kayden Rawls and Chase Quigley helped hold down Zama in a 38-12 season-opening triumph Friday at Eagles Field.
“Great effort, awesome effort by our kids,” said Sanders, the Eagles head coach. “We knew we would have something, but I didn’t know we would have all that. I was very pleased with our kids. They really impressed me tonight.”
It was the Eagles’ largest margin of victory since beating the Trojans 41-10 on Oct. 2, 2015.
Edgren was counting on a core of five players returning from last season, including Keating, and Sanders said that core went a long way toward producing victory for the Eagles on Friday.
“It was evident tonight; you could see the discipline in our core guys with experience,” Sanders said. “They ran well, the defense was rock solid; the lines played lights out tonight.”
Keating finished with 153 yards on 21 attempts, with the line providing “just enough of a crease” to let him operate, Sanders said.
Keating scored the middle three touchdowns, sandwiched between quarterback Raphael Lykins’ opening score and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Bradley McCullum.
The bright light for the Trojans was Devonte Gabriel, who scored both Zama touchdowns, one coming on a 55-yard run, the other on an 80-yard kick return.
“We had opportunities for others, but our inexperience came up and bit us, especially early,” Zama coach Scott Bolin said. “We did better as the game wore on.”
Edgren next hosts Yokota on Friday, while the Trojans have the week off before traveling to Matthew C. Perry for a game Sept. 15.