YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Two players from the defensive backfield are switching positions, and the moves might turn the Misawa Marauders into U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League contenders.

James Coleman moved from cornerback to tailback to take advantage of his speed, and he scored all three of Misawa’s touchdowns in Saturday’s preseason jamboree.

“He can do it,” Misawa coach John Hemphill said. “He runs tough between the tackles, and if you get him into the open . . . he’s going downtown.”

Kenji Blackwell, a free safety last season, has bulked up and shifted to defensive end and tight end, and he recorded three sacks on Saturday.

“He hit the weights hard during the offseason, put on some upper body strength,” Hemphill said. “He’s a beast at defensive end.”

The moves might give the Marauders, who began play in 1997, their best shot at their first league title.

The league’s other three teams certainly took notice at the jamboree, where the Marauders beat each of them by 7-0 scores in the series of one-quarter skirmishes.

“They look good. They have a lot of continuity,” said Yokosuka Seahawks coach Isaac Lee, who even told Hemphill he liked the Marauders’ chances this season.

When the season starts Saturday, the Marauders, along with the Yokota Raiders and Atsugi White Dolphins, will try to knock Yokosuka off the championship pedestal it’s occupied since the 2000 campaign.

The league, down to four teams after the departure of the three from Okinawa, will play a double round-robin schedule followed by a postseason for which all four teams qualify.

While Misawa got everyone’s attention at the jamboree, Lee envisions a “tossup” this season, particularly since he doesn’t think his team is as dominant as it has been.

“We have a long way to go,” Lee said. “I don’t see us being as strong as the last two years. It’s going to be a good wide-open league.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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