Yokota vs. Kinnick: It’s all on the lines
Stellar senior backs Leonard Lynce and Chris Roach have piled up yards and touchdowns with machinelike precision.
Roach has paced Yokota to a 2-0 record, rolling up 492 yards and 10 touchdowns. Lynce’s numbers aren’t quite as high, 352 yards and six TDs, but he’s helped the Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils match the Panthers’ mark, with their first-place showdown looming Friday at Yokosuka Naval Base.
But neither would be where they are without the play of their offensive lines — something which will determine the outcome of Friday’s game, the teams’ coaches say.
“You give yourself the best chance of winning if you control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball,” said Tim Pujol, whose Panthers will aim for their 42nd straight on-field victory Friday.
Yokota forfeited two wins in 2002 for using an ineligible player.
“For either team, and that’s been one of Yokota’s strengths over the past five years, the line has to clear the way for the running back,” added Red Devils coach Robert Stovall. “No backs are good without the line.”
Friday’s winner will seize the early edge in the battle for the JFL title, which Yokota has won the last five years, and for the right to host Rising Sun Bowl VI on Nov. 13 against the Okinawa Activities Council champion.
While Yokota battles Kinnick, the defending Okinawa champion Kadena Buccaneers (0-1) are at the Kubasaki Samurai (1-0), while the Kadena Islanders (1-0) entertain the Kubasaki Shogun (1-0).
On Saturday, Zama American (0-3) travels to the American School In Japan (0-2).
The Red Devils beat their first two opponents, Zama and ASIJ, with ease, but Stovall calls Yokota the “first big test” of the season for his line.
“We have some guys who are willing, but inexperienced,” Stovall said of a group that includes 180-pound seniors Joey Wood and Broderick Thomas and 150-pound junior Yamato Cibulka.
Their job is to control an experienced Yokota line that features seniors Shane Andersen (175), Josh Smith (198) and Mike Herron (230), who’s coming off an ankle injury, along with 270-pound junior Joe Saffold.
Kinnick hasn’t beaten the Panthers in six seasons and has been outscored by Yokota 314-33 in their last 10 meetings.
“They can’t worry about the other stuff, the winning streak, who they’re playing, anything else but what their jobs are at the moment,” Stovall said. “They have to do all the fundamentals correctly, stay low, attack the other side of the line, get there first and stay mentally focused.”
Pujol has scouted Kinnick and says the defense plays with spirit and intensity. Tailback Jarvis Williams and fullback Adam Krievs join with Lynce to create a potent backfield.
“They’re excellent in defensive pursuit,” he said. “All the guys on defense just fly to the ball.”
But Pujol believes the game will ultimately be decided at the line of scrimmage.
“The focus has to be on the lines,” he said. “Combine that with solid defense and a good kicking game that can maintain field position, those will be the determining factors.”