Backup QB helps Yokota remain unbeaten
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – What’s the leading football offense in the Pacific to do when it loses its starting quarterback? Turn to the signal caller who helped Ramstein win the 2014 DODDS Europe Division I title.
Ty Dotson stepped in for Marcus Henagan, held out as a precaution with a bruised left shoulder. He was 3-for-6 for 56 yards, while backfield mates Shota Sprunger and Jam Harvey combined for 332 yards and five touchdowns and Yokota pulled away late for a 35-14 win Saturday at Matthew C. Perry.
“It’s a nice luxury to have,” coach Tim Pujol said of having Dotson to back up Henagan. Dotson, primarily a receiver in the Panthers’ lineup, transferred to Yokota shortly after the 2014 DODDS Europe season.
Saturday’s victory was a far cry from the Panthers’ 55-7 romp on Sept. 11 at home over the Samurai.
Yokota led by just 21-14 entering the final period, but got a couple of breaks on a Perry special-teams miscue followed by a fumble recovery which the Panthers converted to fourth-quarter touchdowns.
“The outcome was in question for 3½ quarters, no doubt about it,” Pujol said.
Unlike the game two weeks ago when Perry spread its attack to compensate for losing the bulk of its interior from last season, coach Frank Macias reverted back to his double-wing attack that helped the Samurai reach the Far East Division II title game a season ago.
R.J. Bolduc, who began the season in the line, was moved the fullback to help plow open some holes for tailback Caeleb Ricafrente, whom Macias said had his “coming-out” on Saturday, with 198 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. Bolduc had a touchdown and 62 yards on 14 carries of his own.
“They (Samurai) moved the chains quite regularly,” Pujol said. “They played hard. They’re a very well-coached, disciplined, snap-to-whistle team.”
“We turned it into a street fight and our kids didn’t back down,” Macias said. “I think we’re finally finding our mettle. We’re back to playing Samurai football. I’m very proud of my boys.”
Perry got on the board first, but the Panthers scored the next three touchdowns to go ahead for keeps. Still, it was just a seven-point game entering the final 12 minutes and it appeared it would come down to the wire.
But after Perry’s Zach Brown blocked a punt, the ball glanced off a Samurai lineman, the Panthers recovered and pushed across for an insurance touchdown.
Perry then drove inside the Yokota 10 before fumbling it away. Dotson completed a long pass to keep the ensuing possession going and Sprunger scored to seal the outcome.
Sprunger finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries and Harvey added 155 yards and two scores on 14 rushes plus 12 tackles, Shomari Tindal had eight tackles and a fumble recovery and three other Panthers had six tackles each. Andrew Jenkins led Perry with nine tackles.
The Panthers are 4-0 overall and 3-0 in D-II, while the up-and-down Samurai fell to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in D-II. “If Yokota ends up representing Japan (in Far East D-II Nov. 7), they deserve to,” Macias said.
Yokota, averaging 48.5 points per game, next hosts Division I’s leading team, Kubasaki; the two played for the Division I title in 2011 and 2012, with the Panthers winning 34-6 and 55-8.
Dragons coach Fred Bales “and I have a good handle on the personnel we have,” Pujol said. “We’ll do our best to prepare our players for their talent, a spread team that can run and throw the ball.”