USFJ-AFL football: Misawa Marauders have turned their season around
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Losses in their first two games are now distant memories for the Misawa Marauders. The defending U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League champions, who have a three-game winning streak, are talking title again.
Reigning league MVP Jamey Crawford scored all five touchdowns and the Marauders pulled within a game of first-place Yokosuka, throttling the Seahawks 30-0 on a rainy, windy Saturday at Marauders Field.
“I see us taking this all the way,” Misawa coach Dwight Abel said of his team, which lost 8-6 on June 3 at home to Yokota and 12-8 two weeks later at Yokosuka.
The Marauders have since racked up two shutouts and outscored their opponents 72-9, looking more like the team that won its first league title last season.
“We didn’t have an opportunity to scrimmage anybody before the season. Our game plan, we had to figure that out during the course of the (first two) games,” Abel said. “Now, we know what works and what doesn’t. It took us two games to figure it out.”
Using its traditional smashmouth rushing attack, Misawa ran mostly off tackle and through the tight end. Crawford handled the ball only 10 times but gained 140 yards and scored all four of his rushing TDs in the first half.
Crawford ran off-tackle for touchdowns of 35, 50 and 30 yards and took a sweep 15 yards for a score. He capped the scoring by catching a 50-yard touchdown pass from Fred Ellis.
One thing that gratified Abel was seeing his team score four first-half touchdowns.
“We tend to score in the first quarter, then become content,” he said. “I try to get the guys to keep up their intensity and not settle for just that one score.”
The Marauders, who have point-differential advantages over first-place Yokosuka and third-place Yokota, are in good position to host a semifinal playoff game Aug. 26.
But Abel said his team knows that it still needs to beat last-place Atsugi while hoping Yokota can beat Yokosuka on Aug. 5 for a shot at its second straight regular-season title and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
“I stressed to my guys, enjoy this, but on Tuesday, we need to get back to the drawing board,” Abel said. “It’s far from over.”
Seahawks coaches expressed much the same sentiment that though it was Yokosuka’s first loss of the season, the team continues to control its own destiny.
“This was hopefully a wake-up call,” defensive coordinator James Price said. “We took Misawa too lightly. They played football. We couldn’t put it together. We just weren’t prepared. We have no excuses. But we don’t have our heads down. This isn’t over, by any means.”
x-scheduled for six games as non-league entry.
Yokosuka at Misawa, 2 p.m.
x-Yokota Kadena, ppd., duty commitments
Saturday, July 29
Atsugi at Yokosuka, 6 p.m.
x-Misawa at Kadena, 6 p.m.