Ryudai upends Okinawa to set up Torii Bowl battle with Hansen
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Fumiya Ohara and his Ryukyu University Stingray had their fill of losing to the defending champion Okinawa Dragons, twice by a combined 26 points during the regular season. And Ohara said he wasn’t about to do it again in Saturday’s semifinal.
So Ohara became a one-man wrecking crew on defense and special teams: Six tackles for losses, an interception, a sack, a punt block for a safety and a tackle for a safety.
That led the Stingray to a 32-14 dethroning of the Dragons. With the victory, Ryudai has reached the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League’s Torii Bowl title game next Saturday at unbeaten Hansen, which routed winless Kinser 34-6 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
Ryudai 32, Dragons 14: “We lost twice to them and we didn’t want to lose to them again,” Ohara said through a translator, adding that he and his teammates weren’t dwelling much on the previous encounter, in which the Dragons won 12-6 and 20-0 on March 31 and April 1. “We were only thinking about today.
“He has so much passion, knowledge and leadership,” said Stingray player-coach Riichiro Shinjo, who played for the Dragons for two seasons before the Stingray joined the league this year. “He tackles so hard and he has good football field vision.”
“He’s a monster,” Dragons coach Jermaine Baker said. “He’s so fundamentally sound.”
It looked as if the Dragons would draw first blood, but a 61-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Williams to Donovin Beasley was called back on a holding penalty late in the first quarter.
It was Ryudai (3-4 this season) which got on the board first when Ohara blocked a punt out of the Dragons end zone late in the first half. Ryota Osato’s first of four touchdown runs, a 1-yarder, put the Stingray up 9-0 just before halftime.
Ohara struck again early in the third quarter, tackling Dragons punter Scott Kolb for another safety to make it 11-0. Osako’s second TD run made it 18-0 at third quarter’s end.
Gabriel Edwards and Frederick Dudley briefly gave the Dragons life early in the fourth quarter as Edwards’ sack forced a fumble that Dudley returned 85 yards for a touchdown.
But Osako answered on back-to-back Stingray possessions with two TD runs to ice the contest. Beasley caught a 63-yard TD pass on the last play of the game to narrow the margin to 18.
The Stingray defense held the Dragons to minus-34 yards rushing, recorded four sacks and forced four turnovers. The Dragons hurt themselves with penalties, 14 for 129 yards.
“I knew they would be prepared,” Baker said of the Stingray. “I know what (Shinjo) can do. Their program is getting better. I think our guys looked too far ahead. They came out flat.”
Beasley had three catches for 77 yards and Toby Queen four for 94, while defensively, the Dragons had five sacks, two each by Edwards and Joe Hall, plus interceptions by E-Quantay Mason and Boots Zion. The Dragons finished 4-3 on the season.
Hansen 34, Kinser 6: In a tense game that was called off with 6:35 left following late fights and five player ejections, Benjamin Fuller starred on all sides of the ball, catching two passes of 27 and 20 yards for touchdowns and returning a kickoff 85 yards for a score.
The Outlaws (7-0) intercepted three passes, recovered a fumble and recorded two sacks. Two takeaways led directly to touchdowns and Rafeal Shinholster returned a fumble 40 yards for a Hansen TD. The margin would have been wider had not four TDs been called back on penalties.
Aaron Walker rushed 19 yards for a Hansen score. Hansen’s James Jackson tackled Kings backup QB Andre Wagner in the end zone for a safety to cap the scoring.
The Outlaws amassed 206 yards of offense, while the Kings (0-7) were held without a first down and gained just 18 yards on offense.
Dre Blacknall accounted for the Kings’ lone points, recovering a muffed Hansen punt return and taking it four yards into the end zone late in the third quarter. Joshua Leach had two interceptions and Wade Taylor two sacks for the Kings.