USFJ-AFL:Defense, special teams put Foster in title game
Stars and Stripes August 10, 2009
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Defense and special teams ruled the evening as the Foster Bulldogs became the first Okinawa team to reach the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title game since 2003.
Anthony Williams and Daniel Ramirez each returned interceptions for touchdowns, Tim Grant blocked a punt into the end zone where Adam Lashley fell on it for another TD, and Ky Gregory booted two field goals as Foster beat Torii 25-7 in Saturday’s semifinal at McDonald Stadium.
"Defense is the heart and soul of our team," defensive captain Tim Craig said. "Offense wins ballgames. Defense wins championships."
"They did their thing," coach Auburne Edwards said, citing Craig, Grant and Manny Garza as players who "stepped up. They had a plan; they had it working. Outstanding job."
That defense forced five turnovers, recorded three sacks and held the Wolfpack to 32 rushing yards. Only a late 54-yard scoring pass from Adam Edmondson to Chris Speed kept it from being a shutout.
Ramirez began the pickoff parade, with a 13-yard interception return 4:31 into the game. Gregory’s 29-yard field goal 9:21 before halftime preceded Grant’s punt block at the Torii 4-yard line.
"The previous time they punted, I spotted something. I hesitated, but told myself next time I’d go for it. I saw it again, and I took advantage," Grant said.
Gregory kicked another field goal 4:34 into the second half to make it 19-0. Speed’s long TD catch gave the Wolfpack life with 7:11 remaining, but Williams snuffed it out with a 36-yard interception return.
Terry Brawner was 7-for-18 for 73 yards, Jamar Jarrell ran 12 times for a team-leading 60 yards, and Johnny Jean-Francois had two drive-snuffing interceptions for Foster. Corey Moore had four catches for 61 yards.
Adam Edmondson, subbing for injured starter Jordan Frank, was 8-for-24 for 194 yards. Speed had two catches for 90 yards, Robert Prince had two catches for 55, and Reginale Thomas and West Point veteran Rick Angle each intercepted Brawner passes.
"We made a lot of mistakes. We aided them. Turnover after turnover after turnover," Torii coach Darell Keith said. "They (Foster) know how to capitalize on mistakes, they keep the momentum, and they execute. I wish them well" in the Torii Bowl.
"We hope to give them a good game. We’re excited about coming to play for the championship," Yokota coach Herb Fletcher said.
The Torii Bowl will be the first time an Okinawa team plays a mainland Japan team for the title. The Okinawa Giants qualified for the Torii Bowl in 2001 and 2003, but those games were canceled — 2001 because of the Sept. 11 attacks and 2003 due to duty and scheduling conflicts.
Saturday, July 18 Game 1-Torii 12, Kadena 6, 4 OTGame 2-Yokota 44, Misawa 12
Saturday, Aug. 1 Game 3-Yokota 18, Yokosuka 12Game 4-Torii vs. Foster at McDonald Stadium, Kadena Air Base, ppd., lack of field
Saturday, Aug. 8 Game 4-Foster 25, Torii 7
Saturday, Aug. 15 or Aug. 22 Torii BowlGame 5-Yokota vs. Foster at McDonald Stadium, Kadena Air Base, 6 p.m.