ASIJ earns first D-I title game berth by knocking off Kubasaki
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Switching to Jack Ambrosino at quarterback midway through last season paid the biggest dividend of all for American School In Japan football – a school-first trip to the Far East Division I championship game.
Ambrosino, a junior, tossed three touchdown passes and Jo Tsusaka ran for a touchdown and caught a pass for a score as the Mustangs rallied from a 10-7 halftime deficit for a 28-10 win Friday at Kubasaki. ASIJ plays for the title on Nov. 12 against an opponent to be determined Saturday.
“How about that?” said John Seevers, in his 40th season coaching ASIJ football. “We’re pretty excited about that. We’re kind of anxious to see what happens tomorrow” when Kinnick visits Kadena.
ASIJ would host Kadena if the Panthers beat the Red Devils; Kinnick would host the Mustangs with a win at Kadena.
It appeared early on in the contest that Kubasaki would do all it could to keep the title game on Okinawa, where it’s been played every year since 2013.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Mustangs went up 7-0 on Ambrosino’s 25-yard TD pass to Oliver Rogers. But the Dragons answered promptly on Anthony Macaluso’s 84-yard kick return on a fake reverse that tied the score 25 seconds into the second period.
Just before half, Joshua Swen improved to 6-for-9 on field-goal tries with a 37-yarder that put the Dragons up 10-7.
But the Mustangs then posted 21 unanswered points.
Ambrosino hit Jake Noddin from 45 yards out less than three minutes into the third period. Tsusaka caught a 23-yard TD pass with 3:53 left in the quarter, then halfway through the fourth quarter, Tsusaka ran 3 yards to cap the scoring.
“He came back. He’s a special kid,” Seevers said of Ambrosino, who has improved to 8-2 as the Mustangs’ starter.
“We had some really great runs. It starts up front with the line, we got some great blocking. After a slow start, we put it all together. Kubasaki’s a great program; we enjoy coming down here to play them,” Seevers said.
Ambrosino finished 11-for-21 for 247 yards. Andrew Howe exited with an injury after rushing 12 times for 94 yards. Tsusaka had 116 yards total offense for the Mustangs.
The victory spoiled Kubasaki’s homecoming and snapped the Dragons’ string of five trips to the D-I title game. Kubasaki won once, 34-31 in overtime at Kadena in 2013.
“We got beat by a fine ASIJ team tonight,” Dragons coach Fred Bales said. “It was a tough assignment. We had a good game plan going in, the kids worked hard all week, the coaches had them prepared; it just wasn’t the outcome we wanted. But I’m very proud of the effort.”
Macaluso had 120 all-purpose yards for the Dragons, who finish the regular season with their third game against Kadena at 6 p.m. Friday. ASIJ tunes up for the D-I title game on Saturday at home against Yokota; kickoff is at 1 p.m.