Mustangs hand Panthers first loss
October 15, 2016
TOKYO – Kadena’s bid for a third straight Far East Division I football title got delayed, if not derailed, by a pair of American School In Japan seniors.
Mike Taylor caught a touchdown pass and had two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery, and Sho Hatakeyama had 70 yards on seven catches and a TD as the Mustangs stunned the two-time defending D-I champion Panthers 34-20 on Saturday at Mustang Valley.
Coupled with Nile C. Kinnick’s 63-0 rout of Seoul American on Saturday, four teams remain in the chase for the D-I title – ASIJ, Kadena, Kubasaki and Kinnick, each with the equivalent of two wins and a loss.
“It’s wide open,” said John Seevers, in his 40th year of coaching at ASIJ, which is in its second season of being D-I title-eligible.
That it is wide open was due in large measure to Taylor and Hatakeyama, whom Seevers said were instrumental in helping the Mustangs right the ship after a 29-22 home loss to Kinnick two weeks earlier.
“He had the best game of his career today,” Seevers said of Taylor. “He was pumped up as were all the kids about this game and how important it was, to our team, for the season.”
Taylor’s 7-yard touchdown catch just before halftime sparked an ASIJ run of 19 unanswered points that rallied the Mustangs from a 14-7 deficit to a 26-14 lead late in the third quarter.
Taylor had two of five interceptions for the Mustangs, who converted three of those pickoffs into touchdowns. In addition to his touchdown catch, Hatakeyama also had an interception.
“Sho can do those kinds of things,” Seevers said of Hatakeyama, who also plays center field on Seevers’ ASIJ baseball team. “He’s not only a great athlete, but he’s a great leader, a great kid.”
Jack Ambrosino was 14-for-20 for 171 yards and two scores. ASIJ started sophomore running back Andrew Howe for the first time and he responded with 116 yards on 17 carries. Coe Laughlin rushed for two touchdowns and Jo Tsusaka added 51 yards and a TD on 12 carries.
Hatakeyama’s touchdown catch came on ASIJ’s first possession, a 6-yard pass from Ambrosino. Kadena responded with a 5-yard TD run by Uriah Morris and a 9-yard scoring pass from Cody Sego to Abe Patterson. Jericho Williams’ 1-yard TD run cut an ASIJ 12-point lead in half, but it was as close as Kadena would get.
“We got outplayed, outcoached, outhearted,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said.
Sego was 10-for-21 for 117 yards and rushed nine times for 24 yards. Williams had 135 all-purpose yards on 10 touches.
Kadena hosts Kinnick at 2 p.m. Saturday, while ASIJ heads to Kubasaki for a 6 p.m. Friday kickoff. Which team hosts and which team will be the visitor in the D-I title game slated for Nov. 12 will be determined next Saturday.
“We live to fight another day,” Mendoza said.