Kadena routs Kinnick to grab spot in title game
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – A swarming defense, plus the expected dose of yards and touchdowns by Justin Sego, helped Kadena book a spot in next month’s Far East Division I football title game for the second straight season.
Sego racked up 289 all-purpose yards Saturday and accounted for four touchdowns, while the defense held Pacific rushing leader Dre Paylor to 108 yards. The Panthers routed Nile C. Kinnick 49-0, ending the Red Devils’ title hopes. Kadena plays for the D-I title at Kubasaki on Nov. 8.
“We (coaches) worked really hard to ensure the kids got a chance and the kids worked really hard to give themselves a chance to be at that last game,” said coach Sergio Mendoza of Kadena (4-2). “They’ve earned the right to be there.”
The win left all three teams, Kubasaki, Kadena and Kinnick, at 3-1 in the Division I standings. Kubasaki won host rights via points tiebreaker and the Panthers earned the visitor’s spot via head-to-head competition with Kinnick.
“Hat’s off to Sergio,” said coach Dan Joley of the Red Devils, who finish the season 5-2. “I wish him the best of luck. It’s a huge deal to play in a championship game.”
Sego held up his end again, both on offense and special teams. He rushed 14 times for 171 yards, including touchdown runs of 19, 11 and 63 yards. He also threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jamario Harris, had two returns for 90 yards and intercepted a pass just before halftime.
But it was the defense, with Sego shadowing Paylor at the corner spot and Siulagisipai Fuimaono, Dominic Santanelli and John McBain clogging the middle, that spelled the difference, Mendoza said.
“We went back to a lot of tackling fundamentals that we needed to go back to,” he said of the week of practice. “We worked on our fundamentals and that helped us out a lot on defense.”
Harris also scored on a 1-yard run and had an interception. Jason Bland took a bad Kinnick shotgun snap 19 yards for a touchdown and Kortez Hixon recovered his own fumble and took it 33 yards for a score.
The game was played with a running clock from the 8-minute, 40-second mark of the third quarter, following Sego’s last touchdown on his final carry. He is second in the Pacific behind Paylor with 1,170 yards and 11 touchdowns on 124 carries.
As Kinnick hoped for a school-first appearance in a Far East D-I title game, so, too, was Paylor taking aim at a second straight 2,000-yard season; he had 2,002 on 250 carries in 2013. He exits the campaign with Pacific highs of 1,573 yards and 18 touchdowns.
“From the beginning, we just weren’t ready to play and Kadena was, and they have a lot of passion, a lot of fire and we didn’t have either of those two things,” Joley said.
Greg Bacon had 77 total yards for the Red Devils.
Kadena closes its regular season on Friday with its homecoming game against the Singapore American youth services All-Star Falcons team.