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Season 16 of the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League began Saturday with an outcome quite opposite of the one that closed the 2014 campaign.

Jesse Swanson went 10-for-15 for 130 yards and three touchdowns as the Hansen Wolfpack blanked the defending champion Kinser Kings 31-0 at Kadena High School. In Saturday’s other opener, the team the Kings vanquished in last year’s final, Kadena, downed Foster 30-12.

Kinser had ruled the roost in the 2014 campaign, going 6-1 in the regular season before ousting Hansen in the semifinals 39-0, then shutting out the Dragons 36-0 in the Torii Bowl last June 28.

The Wolfpack were 2-5, last in the four-team league last season. Swanson found Deon Wardsmith for two of his touchdown passes. Aaron Leblanc added 30 yards and a touchdown on eight carries, Mitchell Burchett and Nathaniel Daniels each had interceptions and Brian Marquez kicked a field goal and four extra points.

For the Dragons, defense ruled the day; Kadena recorded seven sacks and Darnell Hobson returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown.

Emmanuel Griffin, the last holdover from the old Okinawa Football League of 2004-05, had 40 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. Also for Kadena, Ralphael Jones ran 10 times for 68 yards. Shawn Finnegan passed for 118 yards, including a 22-yard TD pass to Solomon Langston. Brandon Avery rushed 81 yards for a score.

For the second straight season, USFJ-AFL football is primarily an Okinawa domain. Misawa’s Jets suspended operations for the second year in a row, Yokota continues to try to find players, while league charter member Yokosuka opted to play against mostly Japanese teams.

The regular season runs through May 16 every Saturday except for May 2. Semifinal playoffs are slated for May 30 and the Torii Bowl title game at 6 p.m. June 13 at Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field.


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