YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — On paper, Wednesday’s showdown at Berkey Field loomed as a titanic clash of champions, two-time Okinawa Football League champion Kadena at seven-time U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League champion Yokosuka.
But to the host Seahawks, 18-6 winners over the visiting Dragons, it was little more than just another day at the office.
"All we did was get ready to play a game. We took it as a regular league game. Neither team came here to lose," Seahawks coach Robert Cole said.
Kadena, which suited up just 16 bodies, was playing its first game since blanking USFJ-AFL’s Yokota and Atsugi by a combined 80-0 two seasons ago. Prior to that, the Dragons had won 25 of 27 games dating back to 2003, when Kadena still belonged to the USFJ-AFL.
Now, with the OFL defunct, Kadena plays six games this season as an exhibition entity against the three USFJ-AFL teams, including Yokosuka, which won for the ninth time in 10 games dating back to last season.
The Dragons literally traveled straight from the plane to Berkey, flying from Kadena Wednesday morning, then busing three hours from Yokota Air Base, arriving an hour before kickoff.
"They’re lionhearted," Cole said of Kadena. "They played their hearts out. These are guys who play for the love of the game."
William Batten tossed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Morrison Gray and sneaked in from a yard out to account for two Yokosuka touchdowns. Lorenz Piper ran 14 times for 87 yards, including a 26-yard TD run.
Anozie Uzomanzie and Marcus Steed each had a fumble recovery and a sack and Dale Rieck added a sack, giving the Seahawks 13 takeaways and 10 sacks on the season.
Kadena’s lone points came on Emmanuel Griffin’s 2-yard run that capped a 60-yard third-quarter drive. It was the first of three games in five days for the Dragons, who play Yokota at Yokosuka on Friday and travel to Misawa for a Sunday game before returning home.
"We gave it our all," Kadena player-assistant coach Andy Broome said. "We knew they (Seahawks) were the class of the league. I told the guys to leave it on the field and show what Dragon football is about."
Yokosuka is slated to visit Kadena in a rematch at 6 p.m. June 28.