Yokosuka wins fifth USFJ-AFL title in a row
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The Yokosuka Seahawks have one for the thumb. They have a stingy defense and Roy Roberts to thank for it.
Roberts ran for 158 yards on 16 carries, including a game-sealing 74-yard TD ramble, and Marc Sellers returned a 67-yard interception for a first-quarter score to boost the Seahawks past the Misawa Marauders 22-0 Saturday in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title game.
It was Yokosuka’s fifth straight title since the USFJ-AFL organized into its current form for the 2000 season.
“Smashmouth football at its finest. It was a slugfest, as I thought it would be. Defense was the story,” Seahawks coach Isaac Lee said of his defense, which kept league-leading rusher James Coleto 81 yards on 27 carries, and held the Marauders to 87 yards on 59 plays.
Sellers’ interception “broke the camel’s back,” Lee said.
With the Marauders driving in the first quarter, Sellers stepped in front of Andre Rice’s pass at the Seahawks’ 33-yard line, with nothing between him and the goal line but dry land.
“We couldn’t generate anything consistently on offense,” Lee said. “The key play was that interception. It was pivotal. At the time, we had swapped possessions. It was a possible go-ahead drive.”
Lee wasn’t so much worried about Misawa’s passing — three quarterbacks were a combined 4-for-17 for 33 yards — as he was keeping Coleman from breaking loose.
“I knew they couldn’t throw on us,” Lee said. “But I knew that stopping Coleman was going to be hard to do.”
Yokosuka held him, and it held Misawa without a first down for almost 35 minutes in the process. Misawa had only three first downs in the game and got no closer than Yokosuka’s 25-yard line.
Another move Lee made was switching from starting quarterback Alvin Johnson, who threw four interceptions, three to Misawa free safety Justin Rose, to option quarterback Will Hall to start the second half.
“That made a difference, going with Hall,” Lee said.
Hall added a 17-yard TD run in the fourth quarter for insurance.
After losing two of their first three games, the Seahawks won their last five.
“A great way to end a great season,” Lee said.
For former two-time USFL-AFL defensive player of the year Mike Favors, it continued a string of championships that began with Yokosuka in the old USFJ league in 1997; he’s been part of seven straight title teams since.
“Seven is heaven,” said Favors, who had one of two Seahawks interceptions. Derrick Clay added a fumble recovery and Thomas Curry a sack.
It was a bitter ending for a Marauders team that continues a seemingly endless series of frustration. Misawa lost to Yokosuka 16-6 in the 2002 title game, and went out in the first round of the playoffs last year.
After beating the Seahawks 27-6 in their first go-round July 17 at Misawa, the Marauders fell 18-12 in four overtimes to Yokosuka on July 31 before falling once more in the championship game.
“It can’t work if you can’t get the basics established,” Misawa coach J.D. Hemphill said. “We didn’t pick up the blocks well at all. And they [Seahawks] brought it. They played their hearts out.”