YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – While Yokota’s offensive yardage ended up a little thin, the Panthers’ scoring did not, thanks to the special-team skills of Shota Sprunger.
The sophomore return specialist racked up 199 yards on six returns and also scored three times, powering Yokota past Zama 50-19 Friday in a happy homecoming at Yokota’s Bonk Field. The Panthers (2-4) snapped a three-game losing streak; the Trojans fell to 0-5.
“The Shota Sprunger Show,” Panthers coach Tim Pujol labeled it. Sprunger added 52 yards on seven carries, including touchdown runs of 27 and 3 yards, and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Henagan. “We had a lot of short fields to work with, which was nice.”
Henagan ran for 54 yards on seven carries with one touchdown and was 4-for-10 for 81 yards and two scores, including a 30-yarder to Noah Macias. John Crate returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown and Macias kicked field goals of 32 and 34 yards.
Crate’s fumble return paled in comparison to the play of Jaelen Baker, a junior who returned fumbles 38 and 70 yards for scores for Zama. “I don’t know what happened on those two plays, but that kid was in the right place,” Pujol said.
“He’s really opportunistic,” Trojans coach Steven Merrell said of Baker. “He has a nose for the ball, he’s right there, picks it up and knows where to go with it.”
Jaedon Baker, his brother, also a junior, rushed 2 yards for the Trojans’ other touchdown, setting up that score with a 78-yard run.
Merrell called the Bakers fast, aggressive and physical. “We’re certainly glad they’re on our team,” he said.
Yokota concludes its season Oct. 24 at Robert D. Edgren, while Zama hosts American School In Japan on Friday, then travels to Matthew C. Perry on Oct. 25.