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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — From Friday’s opening kickoff — literally — the Yokota Panthers made it clear that they still control the Japan Football League.

Senior Jeremiah Pearcey took that kickoff 70 yards for the first of his three touchdowns, sparking Yokota to a 44-6 romp over the Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils in a battle for first place.

The four-time defending champion Panthers (4-0 overall, 3-0 in JFL) completely outplayed the Red Devils (3-1, 3-1), starting up front.

“The offensive linemen were warriors tonight. Absolute warriors. And the defensive front seven was phenomenal,” Yokota head coach Tim Pujol said. “I’ve said it before and it usually holds true: You win the line, you win the game.”

It didn’t hurt getting the huge return from Pearcey.

“I’d said before the game, maybe a big individual play would make a difference,” Pujol said. “What a great way to start a ballgame.”

From there, the line opened running room for senior tailback Roy Roach, who rushed 27 times for 192 yards, including a late 10-yard scoring run. Yokota rushed for 325 yards.

Pearcey, who finished with 149 all-purpose yards, also scored on a 1-yard run and caught a 36-yard TD pass from Shawn Novak, who was 5-for-7 for 78 yards. Chris Roach added a 2-yard TD run and Shawn Bevett an 8-yard touchdown run.

“We told Pearcey and Roy before the game that we were going to give them the ball. We wanted them to run it and move the chains,” Pujol said. “Pearcey just ran outstandingly, as did Roy.”

Though Kinnick was outgained in yardage 395-176 and was missing senior tailback Richie Korth (knee injury) it got a solid performance from senior fullback Brenden Lynce, who ran 12 times for 130 yards, including the Devils’ only score on a 53-yard run.

Yokota had shut Kinnick out five straight times and held the Red Devils scoreless for 26 consecutive quarters.

Kinnick head coach Robert Stovall wasn’t certain how Korth’s absence affected his team.

“I don’t think we came to play today,” he said. “We didn’t seem to be able to block, tackle or focus. We made the most mistakes and they made the least. They deserved to win.”

The victory put Yokota in command of the JFL race. The Panthers also took a 1½-game lead in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, which they’ve also won four straight years.

“We have half the season left,” Pujol said. “It’s a win. All it means is we’re in first place.”

Kinnick next hosts the American School In Japan in a Kanto Plain contest at 7 p.m. Friday, while Yokota travels to Misawa Air Base on Saturday for a 1 p.m. game against Robert D. Edgren.

Okinawa

Kadena Islanders 38, Kubasaki Shogun 0

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — After shutting out their first two opponents, the Kadena Islanders proved Friday that they can score as well.

Keith Loving rushed for 57 yards on six carries, including touchdown runs of 6 and 23 yards, and Alex Berrios added a 17-yard third-quarter TD pass to Arnold Tillman in a shutout of the Shogun (1-2).

It continued a renaissance for the Islanders, who went 1-15 the previous two seasons.

“What a turnaround this is,” Berrios said. “Last year, we were the doormats. This year, I think we can beat everybody.”

The Islanders had 148 yards rushing, while their defense forced 10 fumbles and held the Shogun to two first downs in a game played in intermittent downpours and sloppy field conditions.

— Kadena High School instructor Gil Mueller contributed to this report.


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