KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Special teams and defense ruled the day as Kadena kept alive its slim hopes of sharing the Southern Division title in Saturday’s lone U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League contest.

Jason Lane returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown, Jason Wynn ran in the two-point conversion, and Andre Warren and Eric Dagin intercepted second-half passes to make it stand up as the Dragons (2-2) rallied for an 8-6 victory over Torii Station (0-4).

"Our defense and special teams played their hearts out," Dragons coach Will Cupp said. "We were able to hold our poise enough to win it in the end."

The rally came after a desultory first half in which Kadena turned over the ball three times. The critical one came when Warren fumbled a Torii punt and Wolfpack coverage man Chris Speed fell on the ball at the Dragons’ 10-yard line.

"Army played a good game, but all the turnovers in the first half put us in a tough position," Cupp said. "Turning the ball over on our first two possessions, not a pretty thing."

Four plays later, Speed threw 10 yards to Jordan Frank for Torii’s only score with 7:28 left in the second quarter. Two possessions later with Torii lined up to punt at the Wolfpack 24, the ball hit Kadena’s Mike Christensen in the arm, Lane grabbed it and dashed in for the score.

Neither offense threatened until Torii on the final possession, when Speed completed four of five passes, including a 19-yarder to Frank to set up a first-and-goal at Kadena’s 1 with 18 seconds left. But Torii fumbled the ball on the next play and couldn’t run another as time ran out.

"We have discipline on defense, but we don’t have it on offense," Torii coach Darell Keith said. "I’m proud of them, but I’m hurting with them right now."

Speed led both sides with 112 all-purpose yards in a game in which neither team established offensive momentum; they combined for 262 yards. Torii was penalized 12 times for 89 yards.

Kadena still needs to win its two remaining games, on Saturday at Yokota, and on July 4 against South-leading Foster by four or more points while hoping that Foster loses Saturday at Yokosuka if Kadena is to overtake Foster (4-0) atop the Southern Division.

Cupp said the Dragons must demonstrate "grace under pressure" to accomplish that goal. "Champions win by slugging out the hard ones. Execution is easy as long as you keep your cool."

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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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