Things heard and seen at Yokota football "Panther Territory"
Published: August 17, 2010
Even before you set foot on Yokota High School's Bonk Field to watch the 2010 edition of Panthers football, better take a detour to Capps Gym, where the weight room became workout central over the summer -- and not just for football players, but for athletes in all sports.
YHS athletics officials for decades have been handing out "Pig Iron Club" awards to those who meet a certain standard. Over the summer, seven girls -- the most in school history -- and seven boys -- the most since the 1980s -- were accorded such honors. As many as 55 showed up for a July morning session, and 48 attended the post "Pig Iron Club's" cookout.
Where football is concerned, that means a line which averaged 165 pounds last season has grown by leaps and bounds, on a team that is the most home-grown Panthers squad in Tim Pujol's 12 seasons as Yokota coach. Jesse Hogan, a sophomore, is a prime example of growth, up to 240 pounds from last year, when he barely tipped the scales at 200.
Not too many marquee names return, but a wealth of experience does -- 12 players who suited up for the trip to the Far East Division I playoffs on Okinawa last November return, along with nearly two dozen junior varsity moveups. Just one player stepped off the plane, Roosevelt Neely, a senior running back/cornerback who transferred from Missouri.
The team may not have what Pujol termed "Kadena depth," referring to the defending Division I champions, but Yokota will be wealthy at quarterback, with senior Miles Andrews starting and sophomore Stanley Speed waiting in the wings. Senior Devin Day also returns, to fill the spot vacated by the departed Gerald McCloud.
Other than Seoul American and Guam High, which were given automatic berths to the Division I playoffs in past years (a practice that will end this season), Yokota is the only team to make the Division I playoffs every year since their inception in 2005. A sixth straight berth, and possibly an 11th Japan Football League and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools title in Pujol's 12 years is definitely within the conversation.