Another game, another blowout for Kadena
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Fresh off scoring on a 24-yard touchdown run, Jason Bland came off the field, heading straight for Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza, who greeted him with a big smile and a handshake.
“Man, you are a beast!” Mendoza told the junior running back, who played a big part among many in Saturday’s 40-0 win over Seoul American in a pivotal Far East Division I football game.
With senior star Justin Sego productive but not feeling 100 percent, Mendoza and the Panthers (3-0 overall) continued a two-week pattern of others stepping up to carry the load. Bland finished with 50 yards on four carries and two touchdowns and Barry Mitchell and John McBain each caught scoring passes from Jamario Harris.
“Every week, I’m having so much more faith,” Mendoza said of Bland, Mitchell and Kortez Hixon, capable backs who at times get overshadowed by Sego, who has team highs in yards with 577, carries with 45 and touchdowns with six, this season.
“They’re running hard, our fullback (Dominic Santanelli) is running hard … and our line is developing each week,” Mendoza said.
Of Mitchell, a versatile player who can line up at receiver or running back and even has a special formation designed for him, Mendoza said: “Barry’s a really special player. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Sego had 147 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries. Harris accounted for 137 yards of total offense and Mitchell 100. Sego had 175 all-purpose yards in just one half; he sat for the small portion of the second half that was played.
The game was called off with 69 seconds left in the third quarter due to a combination of the score and Seoul American only having 14 players left after injury and ejection.
Falcons coach James Davis said he wished the game could have ended another way.
“It affects both sides. If they (Panthers) don’t get to play four quarters, they get cheated, too. It was tough.”
Despite all the injuries, the Falcons never stopped playing hard, Davis said. “Sports, I believe, reveals character. It doesn’t build character. They come to me with character.”
The Panthers, who had two more apparent scores called back by penalties, held the Falcons to 50 yards of offense and three first downs, two on Seoul American’s opening possession. The Falcons got as far as the Kadena 49-yard line on the first possession, but no further the rest of the way.
Kadena next visits Kubasaki on Friday, while Seoul American travels to Nile C. Kinnick – Davis’ alma mater and where he was an assistant coach in the 2000s – next Saturday.
Having taken early command of the D-I race, the Panthers hope to avenge last November’s 34-31 overtime loss to Kubasaki in the D-I title game. “Kubasaki is a good team and we’re looking forward to playing them,” Mendoza said.
The Falcons’ D-I title hopes were dealt a severe blow. “I was hoping for a better showing here. What can you do? Try to get healthy and give Kinnick a run for their money,” Davis said. “That’s all we can do.”