USFJ-AFL football: Misawa clinches regular-season crown
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — An unusual four-quarterback combination hit the right note Saturday for the Misawa Jets, who clinched their second U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League regular-season championship in four years.
Darvin Johnson, Andre Rice, Ralph Elliott and Darone Frierson combined to complete eight of 22 passes for 151 yards, with Frierson catching two touchdown passes, as the Jets edged the two-time defending champion Yokosuka Seahawks 26-18 at Hillside Stadium.
"Our passing game came of age," said first-year Misawa coach Jeremy Sanders, whose Jets have won five straight since dropping their season opener 18-0 June 7 at Yokosuka.
The Jets won the last two meetings with the Seahawks at Misawa to win the season series and host rights to the league championship Torii Bowl, slated for 2 p.m. Aug. 30 at Hillside.
Sanders said he employed the four-headed quarterback system to take advantage of each passer’s traits. Elliott and Rice are more traditional pocket passers, while Johnson and Frierson are scramblers.
"We incorporated play schemes, different play calls to suit their abilities," Sanders said.
Yokosuka struck first on Jarril Gardner’s 4-yard run, but Misawa ran off the next 20 points. John Michael McNairy scored a safety, Elliott ran in a 1-yard bootleg, Frierson caught a 28-yard strike from Johnson, and Prentice Coleman returned an interception 45 yards for a TD.
The Seahawks and Jets traded two touchdowns each in the fourth quarter. Following Coleman’s score, Gardner took an errant punt 25 yards for a touchdown, but Frierson answered with a 42-yard TD pass from Johnson. Anthony Seaman’s 3-yard TD run for the Seahawks capped the scoring.
After winning their first two games, the Seahawks (2-2 league, 3-3 overall) went 1-3 after a monthlong layoff. That and being short of players hurt the Seahawks this season, defensive coordinator James Price said.
"We have no excuses," said Price, whose Seahawks host Yokota (0-4) in the semifinal game at 6 p.m. Aug. 23. "We came up here with some real hard-core gamers, some hard hitters, the heart of our team. Today, Misawa beat us in a fair game."
Now comes the Torii Bowl, which Misawa won 30-21 over Yokota on Aug. 27, 2005 at Hillside when the team was called the Misawa Marauders.
"We’re excited to be hosting, but … it’s time to forget this game, move on and concentrate on winning the championship," Sanders said. "We want to give something to the community to thank them for their support."