Team USA defeats Team Rising Sun 68-13 in 3rd annual game
Story and photos by Greg Mitchell
Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan — In front of a near capacity crowd of service members, families, friends and Japanese guests, specially selected student football players participated in the annual 2014 Tomodachi Bowl between Team USA and Team Rising Sun, held at Reid Memorial Stadium at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan, March 9.
Team USA was comprised of Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools from all over Japan, to include American School in Japan (ASIJ), Zama American, Kubasaki, Kadena, Yokota and Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka’s Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils.
Representing the Red Devils were quarterback Dustin Wilson, running back Latendre Paylor, and two-way linemen Ian O’Brien and Alaka’i Warford.
Team Rising Sun consisted of freshman players from Rikkyo University and its high-school affiliate, St. Paul, as well as freshman from Keio University and its high-school affiliate.
Previously, the game was named the Camellia Bowl, but this is the third game going by the name of Tomodachi, which was changed in honor of good will and respect fostered between Japan and the U.S. during joint disaster recovery efforts that followed the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Capt. Steven J. Wieman, commanding officer, Naval Air Facility, Atsugi, served as host, with the honored guest being President of Japanese Parliamentary Association for American Football House of Representatives and former Prime Minister of Japan, Taro Aso.
“Let me congratulate all of you here today on the third Tomodachi Bowl,” said Aso, who also previously served as Japan’s 92nd Prime Minister from September 2008 to September 2009. “I am pleased to tell you that Japan has been making a steady recovery by all the support and cooperation rendered from lots of nations after the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. I am convinced that the friendship and ties of the people from both countries are getting stronger than ever through these private basis goodwill games. Again, I congratulate on the third Tomodachi Bowl and I do hope that the friendship and goodwill of both teams will last forever.”
From the onset, Team USA worked manly behind a hybrid Wing-T offense consisting of Red Devils Paylor; Jarrett Mitchell and Winston Maxwell of Far East Division I champion Kubasaki; Justin Sego of D-I runner-up Kadena.
Quarterbacks David Hernandez of Kanto Plain champion ASIJ and Kinnick’s Dustin Wilson maintained command of an offense that tallied 409 yards on 52 rushes with six touchdowns. Hernandez and Wilson combined to go 11-for-18 for 245 yards and three TDs, resulting in 654 yards on 70 offensive plays and nine scores.
“I have to give them a lot of credit because they kept coming despite the score,” said Paylor, who ended the game with 136 total yards and two touchdowns. “They hit harder than I thought and showed a lot of heart. Still, I think we just had too much talent for them on both sides of the ball. This experience is unique because I really enjoy being able to meet Japanese players. I think we should all continue to play and even if possible, practice against each other to raise each other’s games to the next level.”
Defensively, Team USA had eight quarterback sacks, three each by David Padilla and Preston Harris of Kadena. Constant pressure from O’Brien and company up front further resulted in three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
At the conclusion of the game, players shook hands and posed for group photos. Maxwell was awarded the most impressive player for Team USA; Keio University running back Taku Lee was the most impressive player for Team Rising Sun and Hernandez was named most valuable player.
“This is the best part of the game,” said Dan Joley, varsity head coach of Nile C. Kinnick, assistant to the offensive coordinator for Team USA. “After the kids have done battle; you look around and see the new friends they have made with our Japanese counterparts. Our coaches are all interacting with the Japanese coaches – it’s just a great time for everybody. We must not lose sight of the real value behind this game – friendship.”