Things heard and seen at Kadena football "Panther Country"
Published: August 16, 2010
Installment # 1 of a series of glances during Ornauer's fall high school football walkthrough.
One would think with an entire starting backfield returning, led by seniors Shariff Coleman (1,152 yards, 20 touchdowns, 122 carries) and Thomas McDonald (685, 16, 65) that the reigning Far East Division I football champion Kadena Panthers were in good shape to make a run at a second straight title.
One would think.
But give the team a glance past those star-studded performers and coach Sergio Mendoza insists that while it may not look like it, Kadena has some serious position issues to address, along with one quality that any successful team needs: On-field leadership.
Senior quarterbacks Stan Schrock and Norm Correa have departed, along with graduated center Sean O'Neil, creating that leadership vacuum. "We have a lot of followers, but no leaders" in the mold of those three, Mendoza said.
Right now, seniors Rodney Goodson and Lotty Smith will share the quarterbacking duties. Anchoring the line are brothers Gabe and Aaron Ahner; Mendoza might also get a boost in the secondary from Cory Peckins, a senior transfer from Division II champion Zama American, his third school in as many seasons.
Mendoza expects a "painful growing process for awhile, but we should be OK later."
Peckins has a chance to do what no other Far East football player has ever done -- win back-to-back Far East titles in different divisions with different teams. David Leh did it at the Division II level in 2005 with Osan American and 2006 with Robert D. Edgren.
Peckins and the Panthers are also due to visit Zama on Sept. 25, the first matchup of Division I and II champions in the regular season since 2006.
Speaking of interarea matchups, Kadena and Kubasaki, after years of waiting, will starting this season play against Seoul, Osan and Daegu American of South Korea in DODDS-funded regular-season contests.
"At last, we have a real season schedule," Mendoza said, thanking those in DODDS Pacific who helped make it happen.
The first such showdown pits Seoul American at Kadena on Sept. 4.