Different score, same result as Kubasaki tops Kadena

Kadena running back Jason Bland gets gang-tackled by a host Kubasaki defenders. (Jaylynn Martinez/Special to Stars and Stripes)
From Stripes.com
Kadena running back Jason Bland gets gang-tackled by a host Kubasaki defenders. (Jaylynn Martinez/Special to Stars and Stripes)

Different score, same result as Kubasaki tops Kadena

by: Stars and Stripes | .
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 19, 2015

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – The Kubasaki Dragons put in hard work in the months leading up to the season so they could be in shape for a fourth quarter of pitched battles like Friday’s, coach Fred Bales said.

Isaiah Johnson tossed his fifth touchdown pass of the game and also ran for a score and his team scored 25 unanswered points in the final 12 minutes, 9 seconds to roll past Kadena 53-28 and go up 2-0 in the three-game regular-season series between the last two winners of the Far East Division I title.

With the victory, the Dragons captured their second straight Okinawa season series and earned the equivalent of a win in the Far East Division I standings. Kubasaki beat Kadena 36-6 in the Sept. 4 season opener. Kadena rallied past Kubasaki 41-27 for the 2014 D-I title last Nov. 8.

“All the hard work we spent in the offseason and in the summer paid off in the fourth quarter,” Bales said. “Our kids were still playing hard. Our playmakers were still making plays.”

Johnson, who played receiver last year, went 14-for-25 for 202 yards, hitting Miles Mahlock for three touchdown passes and tossing two more to Jacob Green.

Lester Parker and Javohn Journigan added touchdown runs for Kubasaki. Preston Snyder, Marcus Lee and Caleb Sablan each recovered fumbles and Green intercepted a pass for the Dragons, who converted three of the takeaways into touchdowns.

But Kadena didn’t go away quietly. After trailing 22-7, the Panthers outscored the Dragons 21-6 to knot the game 28-28, tying it on the third of three touchdowns scored by Jason Bland with 2:25 left in the third quarter. Bland had 143 yards on 20 carries and Cody Sego passed 55 yards to Dominic Santanelli for Kadena’s other touchdown.

“What a great job of preparation Kadena did,” Bales said. “I’m just really proud of our guys. They battled hard.”

While both sides hurt themselves with penalties – a combined 26 flags for 218 yards – Kadena was flagged at the more inopportune times, and coupled with the turnovers, the Panthers found themselves climbing out of holes all game.

“We showed that we could be brilliant, but we also showed that we need to grow up,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said. “We fumbled on key drives. We got penalties again. We need to mature. We just showed our youth.”

While Kadena gets next week off, the Dragons travel to American School In Japan for a 5 p.m. Saturday kickoff, aiming to take another step toward securing home-field advantage in the D-I title chase. The D-I team with the best regular-season record hosts the No. 2 team on Nov. 7.

“The biggest game of the season is always the next game,” Bales said. “That’s our focus. We’re just going to play them one-by-one until they’re all over.”

Johnson now has 159 yards and three touchdowns on 22 carries and is 21-for-37 for 367 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Mahlock has 207 yards and three touchdowns and Green 129 yards and two TDs on eight catches each.

Bland leads Kadena with 546 yards and seven scores on 77 carries.