Team Philippines Knocks Off Korean Tigers

Although American football is in its infancy in the Philippines, the Philippines Aguilas, the national team of this Southeast Asian country has already played four games in five years. They played their Korean counterparts, the Korean Tigers (not the official national team of Korea), for the second time in 12 months and finally came away with a win as they evened their record against the Tigers with a hard-fought 19-8 victory. The Tigers won last year’s encounter 38-33.

Paced by game MVP Edlen Hernandez, who rushed for 76 yards, caught four passes for 60 yards and a touchdown while also leading the team with seven tackles, the Aguilas kept the Tigers off balance for much of the game.

Philippines - Aguilas v Korea - 2pic

In contrast to last year’s offensive fireworks, this one was dominated by the ground game and defenses.

The Aguilas took charge in the first quarter moving the ball efficiently behind the running of Hernandez and Jason Pitbang. They were held to only a field goal from DJ Mello though as Korea’s defense stiffened. But the Aguilas managed to keep the rushing offense of the Tigers in check and then Darwin Gonzalez blocked a punt forcing Korea to concede a safety, giving the Aguilas a 5-0 lead.

Hernandez scored on a touchdown pass in the second quarter putting the Philippines up 12-0. Korea finally got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter on a DJ Battistella 80 yard pass to Seongmin Joo and after a two-point conversion, the Tigers were only down 12-8 at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, Preston Lynch extended the Aguilas lead to 18-8 on a spectacular 80-yard punt return.

Aguilas quarterback Luke Zetazate was extremely efficient (9 of 12, 103 yds, 1 TD) and got the Philippines offense moving in the second quarter with the touchdown pass to Hernandez. The wily veteran of American football in Europe was one of the key reasons for the Aguilas win.

“Our defense played great, with Steve Smith, William Yeh,  Yosh Sakurai, Edlen Hernandez and Evan Baylon all playing well. DJ Mello’s directional punting made a huge difference too.”

Lawrence Bowlby is the head coach of the Korean Tigers, made up mostly of players from Korean University in Seoul. He was pleased with his team:

“Our players fought hard in the heat in Manila after traveling all the way down from Korea. Give the Aguilas credit. They have improved over last year. We look forward to breaking the tie in next year’s game.”

Photo Credit: Marlu Gulle

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.