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Sanford James made a desperation heave on fourth down. Maurice Jones made a leaping catch with seven seconds left. And the two rallied Foster past Kadena and thrust the Bulldogs into the South Division title picture just when all had seemed lost only 90 seconds earlier.

“I saw my receivers, they were hungry,” James said after his last-second miracle. “They said put it in the air and they’d go up and get it. So I put Maurice out wide, sent him on a post pattern and he went up and got it.”

Sanford’s second touchdown pass to Jones gave the Bulldogs a 26-20 comeback victory over Kadena, which just two weeks earlier stood at 3-1 and a seeming lock to win the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League South Division regular-season title.

With two straight losses, including Saturday’s at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium on Camp Foster, the Dragons finished the regular-season 3-3 and can do no better than second in the division.

Foster visits Hansen, each 2-2, on Saturday with the division regular-season title and a first-round playoff bye at stake.

The North Division is just as tight after Yokota’s 33-6 home win over Yokosuka. Misawa leads the division at 3-2, Yokota is next at 3-3 and Yokosuka third at 2-3; though outmanned, the Seahawks can throw the division into three-way-tie chaos by beating the Jets at home Saturday.

“Not since I’ve been playing and coaching have I seen both divisions like this. Very unusual,” Yokota coach Selwyn Jones said.

Foster and Kadena spent much of the fourth quarter playing ping-pong with the lead.

Jones caught a 17-yard touchdown pass, James then pooched an onside kick that was covered by Foster’s Dakota Dussault, then James sneaked over from 4 yards out as Foster surged ahead 19-6. Kadena did not have an offensive down in the third quarter; Foster controlled the ball for 16 minutes, 45 seconds.

But when Kadena did get the ball, the Dragons made up for lost time.

Emanuel Griffin ran 8 yards for the second of his two touchdowns with 7:05 left, then Cory O’Cull hit Dishon Harvey for a 53-yard scoring catch with just 97 seconds left, setting the stage for Foster’s late heroics.

“J-Bo (James) is a good quarterback,” Harvey said. “We knew it wasn’t over. We knew we had to make changes on defense. He just hit (Jones) between the seam.”

James went 14-for-22 with two interceptions for 225 yards, Javar Walker caught six passes for 94 yards and Jones had 115 yards total offense. The Bulldogs outgained the Dragons 325-276, the highest totals by two South teams in the regular season.

O’Cull was 8-for-13 with one pickoff for 134 yards, Griffin rushed for 79 yards on 13 carries, Harvey had two catches for 57 yards and 140 all-purpose yards on seven touches, and Devon Cheatham caught three passes for 48 yards.

Up north, Darone Frierson continued to throw touchdown passes at a gluttonous rate for the Warriors, who rebounded from a heartbreaking 40-30 loss on June 1 at Misawa.

But even with Yokosuka, hit hard by duty commitments, fielding just nine of its regular players and 10 first-timers, the Seahawks gave the Warriors all they could handle, Jones said.

“They came at us pretty hard,” Jones said. “He’s got a decent squad. I hope they have enough players” for the season finale pitting Misawa at Yokosuka with the North regular-season title on the line.

Frierson threw a pair of 65-yard touchdown passes to Lamon Irvin plus a 70-yarder to Robert Harris. Chris Ekstrom rushed 11 yards for a score and Joe Stevens added a 3-yard TD run.

For the Seahawks, who began the season with 35 players, Jorge Gonzales, one of his holdovers, hooked up with Eric Brown for a 15-yard TD pass.

NOTES – Foster and Hansen will only play each other twice this season; their scheduled game April 27, canceled due to lack of field availability, will not be made up, the coaches said. Foster downed Hansen 22-8 in their lone meeting this season thus far. That’s out of necessity, since the league’s title game is scheduled for July 13 at the site of the North Division champion. The playoffs will commence on June 22 and continue with the division finals on June 29, giving what coaches say is a two-week window they’d need to arrange passage to the North champion’s base.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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