Things learned, observed in second Tomodachi Bowl
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer remembers why he hates springtime in northern climates: Dust and pollen.
So much for this one being “the game we’ve all been waiting for.”
Team Kanto, this year in the person of No. 1-rated Waseda and No. 4-rated Hosei University high schools, were supposed to be the teams that would finally give a run for their money to Team USA, this year comprised of Yokota, Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick, American School In Japan, Seoul American, Kubasaki and Kadena. “This may be the year that Japan takes home the trophy,” spectators, head coach Tim Pujol, even I said on the AFN Tokyo broadcast pre-game.
Nothing of the sort came close to taking place.
Just another curb-stomping, to the tune of 57-21, at the hands of a line that averaged 244 pounds across, plowing the road for practically every top luminary running back in the region.
Third straight time Team USA has exceeded 50 points. Victors racked up 549 yards and eight touchdowns on 63 plays. Team USA held the Bears and Tomahawks to 78 first-half yards on 33 plays, and it wasn’t for a 64-yard touchdown pass late in the first half, that total would have read 14 on 32 plays.
Team Kanto came alive late in the game, finishing with three touchdowns and 221 yards on 74 plays, much like last year when Team Kanagawa scored its 17 points late after Team USA scored 50. Better than the Camellia Bowl result in 2010, 61-0 for Team USA.
But still quite one-sided. This, despite Team USA having practiced just three times as a full squad before the game, while Waseda and Hosei play and work out practically year-round. I don’t think one-sided was what anybody signed up for this year, least of all the Japanese organizers who now must go back to the drawing board to figure up a way to find a stronger opponent.
It can’t be the university teams themselves; they would in turn curb-st0mp Team USA. Perhaps the Nittai University High School Black Resistance, which used to give Yokota all kinds of problems in preseason games, should be brought in next year.
As it was, with the line shoving back their opponents as much as 10 yards play after play, Kubasaki’s Jarrett Mitchell, the Pacific’s Division I rushing leader, zigged and zagged his way to 172 yards and two first-quarter touchdowns on 14 carries. Looking like the man child he was in three games against Robert D. Edgren, Division II rushing leader Andre Encarnacion of Zama dragged as many as three players with him time and again for 105 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
All told, seven players scored TDs, all on the ground, and 13 different running backs carried the ball for Team USA, in a game played before an estimated crowd of 2,000, and to millions more across the Kanto Plain via AFN and still more watching the live stream on High School Cube or DODDS Pacific’s Far East Streamcasting Network.
Tokyo Broadcasting System also had a film crew, as did AFN Tokyo, plus several photographers from vernacular magazines and newspapers.
The guest list read like a meeting of the Joint Chiefs: Practically every commander of every major Kanto Plain base was in attendance, Capt. Steven Weiman of Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Col. Mark “Buzz” August of Yokota and Col. Eric Tilley of Camp Zama, along with newly minted DODDS Japan district superintendent Dr. Lois Rapp. All the pomp and pageantry one could ask for, with music and national anthems played by the Air Force Band of the Pacific.
As usual, the Shima Shack, long noted for its tasty delicacies, served up its usual best. Today’s special was a delectable turkey leg, barbequed by Panthers boys soccer coach Matt Whipple and outgoing wrestling coach Brian Kitts.
Quite unusual weather they had at the game. At kickoff, the temperature was a robust 71 degrees, with relatively stiff northerly breezes. As the game progressed, one could note a HUGE cloud of dust circulating east of Yokota – quite the pain in the eyes and nose, with pollen already causing untold misery for thousands in the Tokyo area.
That gusted through, replaced by grey clouds and a noticeable drop in temperature. As the fourth quarter began, the sun peeked out once more, but it felt much more like the pre-spring day it was. Temperature read 41 degrees – a drop of 30 degrees Fahrenheit – as the game ended.
How ironic. Before the game, I went to get some paper towels and noted a heater was going full blast. Wasteful, I thought. At least until the need for a heater became very pronounced as the game ended.
Mostly seniors participated in the big game, their last hurrah as football players in the Pacific, including the heralded Yokota line of Victor Madaris, Jake Jackson, Jesse Hogan, Max Lester and Dylan Kessler. They played together three seasons, very rare these days in DODDS. Pujol said three days before the game, he was planning on giving the ball to Mitchell and all the backs running behind that line, and if it didn’t work, they weren’t going to win.
It worked. Roundly. Resoundingly.
Good job, Team USA.