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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Reverting back to the ground game that historically has made Yokota football so successful proved to be the tonic as J.J. Henderson and the Panthers snapped an uncharacteristic four-game losing skid.

The sophomore rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries, including a 66-yard TD run on the game’s second play, and the Panthers broke open the game in the second half, downing Zama American 40-13 at Yokota’s Bonk Field.

“That was a nice thing,” coach Tim Pujol said of Henderson’s performance. “We tried to do a few things to feature him in the running game, and the line … did a great job of blocking, making collisions and opening up some holes for him.”

The Panthers improved to 2-4 with three games left, still with a chance to avoid the first losing season on Pujol’s 15-year watch. The Trojans, who’d beaten the Panthers 21-20 the second week of the season, lost for the fifth straight time.

“It sets a good tone going into the week to prepare” for next Saturday’s Division I home game with Seoul American. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Bonk.

It had been two weeks since the Panthers lost to Kubasaki at home, “we’ve been working on some things since then and I think we’ve been making progress. It gives us momentum going into the final weeks of the season,” Pujol said.

Nick Pederson had 55 yards on seven carries, two returns for 75 yards including a 47-yard punt-return TD, plus an interception. Marcus Henagan was 6-for-12 for 65 yards, including a 14-yard TD pass to Henderson, and ran four times for 45 yards including a touchdown for Yokota. A.J. returned a fumble 37 yards for a score, one of three Panthers takeaways.

Short-handed due to injuries, the Trojans got a 10-for-18, 192-yard passing performance by Nick Zeagler, including a 37-yard TD pass to Raymond Bestor. Bestor picked off two passes and Rafael Morales added a 1-yard scoring run for the Trojans.

“The guys fought valiantly, like warriors,” Trojans coach Steven Merrell said. “We had some untimely turnovers and didn’t make some stops when we needed to.”

Zama next hosts Robert D. Edgren on Friday at 7 p.m. at Naval Air Facility Atsugi’s Reid Memorial Stadium, the first of two clashes between the two for the visitor’s berth in the Far East Division II title game.

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