Second-half rally pays off for Red Devils
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea – Intermission has proven to be something special lately for Nile C. Kinnick, coach Dan Joley said.
For the second straight week, the Red Devils made needed adjustments to get themselves on track. This time, it meant victory, and on the road, after a grueling 16-hour journey, as Kacey Walker’s touchdown run with 3 minutes left boosted Kinnick past Seoul American 19-18 on Saturday at Yongsan’s Sims Field.
“Halftime has been kind of magic the last couple of weeks; the lights seem to go on in these kids heads,” Joley said.
“They go in at halftime, we tighten things up, make the necessary adjustments, then go back out and run things the way we should run them.”
A week earlier, Kinnick fell behind defending Far East Division I champion Kadena 27-0 before outscoring the Panthers 21-8 in a 35-21 defeat at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field.
“We’ve played two good halves of football” in two different games, Joley said. “It’s just a matter now of putting two good halves of football together.”
With Saturday’s victory, the Red Devils leveled their D-I record at 1-1, as well as handing the Falcons their first D-I loss in two games. Kinnick, Seoul American and Kadena each trail Kubasaki by a half-game in the D-I standings.
Kinnick had to fly from Haneda International Airport to Aomori International Airport, near Misawa Air Base, then endure a lengthy layover before flying to Inchon International Airport, southwest of Seoul; all told, a 16-hour journey, including bus rides from Yokosuka and to Yongsan.
“It’s tough to travel in this league,” Joley said.
And they had to rally against a Falcons team that appeared to be in command in the first half, getting touchdown runs from Nick Mauldin and Kyle Ellison and a Jacob Mierles field goal. But Seoul American hurt itself with penalties, then “didn’t show up” in the second half, coach Jimbo Davis said.
“It was just awful,” Davis said. “We killed ourselves on penalties. We took an 18-point lead and took it as if we needed to play one half to win. We could have taken an easy path (to the D-I title game), but made the hardest one for ourselves.”
Walker rushed for two touchdowns and finished with 141 yards on 12 carries. His game-winning TD run came on a drive kept alive by his 13-yard pass to Devoney Stanley. Chauncey Jamerson added 257 yards on 22 carries, including a touchdown run.
Seoul American had one chance in the late going, but went three and out following Walker’s go-ahead touchdown run. Kinnick took over and drove as far as the Falcons’ 1-yard line, then took a knee as time ran out.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Joley said. “They’ve realized they can be a really good football team.”