Hopeful of getting their title defense off to a flying start, the Yokota Warriors instead got a healthy dose of Rice during Saturday’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League season opener.
Andre Rice threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the Misawa Jets rallied from a 12-0 second-quarter deficit for an 18-12 road triumph at rainy Bonk Field at Yokota High School.
“At the champions’ house,” Jets second-year coach Ben Mathe said. “The defense kicked in in the second half, we got the points we needed at the right time.”
From the time the Jets began initial workouts in December, Mathe said he’s been preaching a family principle. “We live and die as a family,” he said. “The guys picked each other up. And this is only the beginning.”
Yokota began the game as though having picked up where it left off when it beat Joint Task Force, 26-23, last July 31 in the league’s Torii Bowl title game. The Warriors scored two first-quarter touchdowns, but mistakes, including two dropped punt returns, proved to be their undoing.
“Too many turnovers,” assistant coach Dan Dittmeier said of six total Warriors miscues.
Kevin Fortin, the Torii Bowl hero, opened the scoring with a 40-yard ramble, then Frederick Guild tossed a 40-yard TD pass to Tyson Huff, just as he had when Yokota burst in front of JTF 12-0 in the Torii Bowl.
But the Jets answered in the second quarter when Rice found Rich Gennie from 30 yards out, then ran 4 yards for the game-tying score. Rafael Lazeare punched it in from the Yokota 4 early in the third quarter, capping the scoring and the Jets defense made it stand up.
Misawa is one of just two teams that have won multiple Torii Bowls, in 2005 and 2009. Asked if this might be the start of another such run, Mathe replied: “We’ll see what happens.”
Meanwhile, the South Division’s season opener was postponed due to the approach of Typhoon Songda, which had bases on Okinawa in Tropical Cyclone Condition of Readiness 1 since 1 a.m. Saturday.
Kadena was to play Foster at Kubasaki High School’s Upper Field Saturday evening. It was not immediately known when the game would be rescheduled.