Defending champ Dragons top Kadena again

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Kubasaki running back Winston Maxwell gets corraled by Kadena defenders Justin Sego and Justin Wilson Thursday during a game Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Kubasaki won 15-8. (Miranda Fino/Special to Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Kubasaki running back Winston Maxwell gets corraled by Kadena defenders Justin Sego and Justin Wilson Thursday during a game Kadena Air Base, Okinawa. Kubasaki won 15-8. (Miranda Fino/Special to Stars and Stripes)

Defending champ Dragons top Kadena again

by: Dave Ornauer | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: October 11, 2014

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Dinged up wrist? Ankle sprain? Winston Maxwell shook off both like they were little more than a petty annoyance and helped keep Kubasaki’s hopes of defending their Far East Division I football title alive.

DeCurtis Davis rushed for two touchdowns for the third straight game and the Dragons defense recovered four of six Kadena fumbles. Kubasaki swept the Okinawa season series from the Panthers, winning Thursday 15-8 at Kadena’s Ryukyu Middle School.

But it was Maxwell who did much of the heavy lifting, particularly in the late going. Noticeably favoring his left leg, injured early in the fourth quarter, with his wrist hurt earlier, Maxwell carried the ball time and again down the stretch, gaining 168 total yards on 27 carries.

“His heart, his spirit, his determination, his grit (are) bigger than this stadium we’re standing in,” coach Fred Bales said of Maxwell, his senior running back. “The term ‘refuse to lose’ comes to mind. He has that indomitable spirit that keeps us going.”

And kept intact Kubasaki’s shot at winning its second straight D-I title, in a complicated scenario in which despite the two losses this season to the Dragons, the Panthers remain alive along with Nile C. Kinnick.

Kubasaki and Kadena play five D-I games this season; the D-I schools only play four that count. The Panthers and Dragons faced each other twice this season to earn the equivalent of one D-I win, which Kubasaki earned. The Dragons and Panthers thus have one D-I loss and Kinnick none.

So it comes down to next Saturday’s Kinnick at Kadena game to determine which team hosts and which team visits for the Nov. 8 D-I title game. Kinnick could seal host rights and eliminate Kadena with a win. A Kadena victory would have DODDS area officials scrambling to add up points in all games Kadena, Kubasaki and Kinnick played against all D-I foes.

“A lot of this stuff is not in our hands,” Bales said. “So we just have to wait and see what happens.”

The teams struggled to put points on the board in a game played in gusty winds and spot showers caused by approaching Super Typhoon Vongfone. Kadena backs struggled to hang onto the ball, fumbling six times, two of them leading to Kubasaki’s touchdowns.

“It was a case of getting beat by a better team,” Panthers coach Sergio Mendoza said. “I’m not going to pin it on mistakes. We had our chances. We just got beat by a better team. We still have life. We’ll move on and fight next week.”

A fumble recovery by Preston Snyder and a 12-yard return set up Davis’ 1-yard TD run 8:51 before halftime. It appeared the ball was fumbled into the end zone, but officials said Davis had crossed the plane of the goal line before losing control.

Following a missed Kubasaki field-goal try, Kadena took over and Justin Sego, with 54 yards on eight carries, led a 10-play, 80-yard drive in 3:45, capped by quarterback Jamario Harris’ 2-yard TD sneak. He also ran for the two-point conversion to give Kadena a brief 8-7 lead.

Kadena’s defense halted Kubasaki at its 9-yard line on the next possession but the Panthers promptly fumbled, recovered by Deaven Curtis. A 19-yard Maxwell carry set up Davis’ second 1-yard TD run. Marcus Lee recovered yet another Panthers fumble two plays later.

Davis was 6-for-16 for 61 yards and rushed 21 times for 38 yards. Sego finished with 203 yards on 31 carries and is second in the Pacific with 999 yards on 110 carries to Kinnick’s Dre Paylor (1,224 on 106).

Kubasaki’s D-I schedule is complete. The Dragons host Singapore’s youth All-Star team on Oct. 20, then complete their regular season on Oct. 24 against American School In Japan. Kadena’s last regular-season game after Kinnick is against Singapore on Oct. 24.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com