Story and photo by Greg Mitchell, FLEACT Yokosuka Public Affairs
TOKYO – Stopping running back Dre Paylor has proven to be a daunting task for Pacific high school football defenders but American School in Japan did just that and a little bit more, relying on solid play-calling and gang-tackling to earn a 15-9 victory over the Red Devils at Mustang Valley Stadium, Oct. 11.
It would also be accurate to say that the Red Devil’s four turnovers and missed field goal didn’t help the game’s outcome at least as far as Kinnick was concerned.
“We learned a lot about ourselves today, faced some adversity and worked through it,” said Kinnick head coach Dan Joley. “Any championship-caliber team has to learn to deal with adversity. We were doing the learning today. [ASIJ]Coach [John] Seevers had his team ready to play. We moved the ball; we just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Not to say that Kinnick’s running game wasn’t up to its usual standards.
Paylor, ran the ball 27 times earning every one of his 241 yards against a feisty ASIJ defense. One of those runs early in the 3rd quarter put the Red Devils ahead but the ensuing extra point was missed by and the game was 9-7. Later in the quarter, Kinnick’s Brady Yoder missed a 32-yard blast that would eventually prove crucial to Kinnick late in the fourth, when victory was still within reach.
ASIJ quarterback Brandon Rogers finished 8-for-20 for 138 yards and one touchdown. Running back Ray Hotta gained 52 yards on six carries, scoring the Mustang’s first touchdown. Red Devils quarterback Kyle O’Brien added 101 yards on 16 carries to help share the load with Paylor.
Defensively, Kinnick was able to limit ASIJ to a total of 257 yards offense. Paylor, playing from the linebacker position, led the team with 10 tackles and two interceptions. Rounding out the top were Dwayne Lyon and George Calbert each with six tackles a piece, followed by Bryce Cherrstrom with five.
At 5-1, the Red Devils season is nowhere near complete, as they travel to Okinawa to face the Kadena Panthers Oct. 18 in a critical contest which will determine whether the team advances to the Far East Division I championship game.
A Kinnick victory would all but guarantee the title game will be played at Yokosuka’s Berkey Field, a loss takes the title game back to Okinawa where it was won last year by Kubasaki.
“Having home field advantage would be a huge boost for us mentally and psychologically as a team,” said Joley. “Right now, the mindset going into the Kadena game is that the playoffs have just begun and that means we must win this game at all cost.”