Things learned, observed in Pacific high school football Week 10.0
Published: October 23, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer prepares to vault headlong into the Far East football playoffs:
Ah, nothing like a parade and the big game to highlight a homecoming week, or “Spirit Week” as it’s known in many circles. One thing that Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools do well is homecoming. Zama American may have lost its homecoming game 33-0 to Yokota, but for three years now, the garrison has hosted what I consider the finest homecoming parade in the Kan-to, because of the full participation of the base command, U.S. Army Japan command and their entire support staffs. Everything from fire trucks to flat beds have a part. Firemen and MPs participate. Maj. Gen. Michael Harrison, whose junior son Mitchell plays for the Trojans, presided over the pre-game coin toss. It gets no better than that.
Unless, of course, it rains, which it did all game long, drenching the mood of the home denizens, who still turned out wearing plastic covering, bearing umbrellas, anything to stay dry. I would venture to guess more than several cheerleaders needed to be wrung out when they got home. But that was after both Yokota’s and Zama’s cheerleaders joined together in a dance at halftime on the track; even the mascots joined in. Good sportsmanship as well as spirit.
As to the game itself … riddled by injuries and with the trip to Daegu American for the Far East Division II championship game looming in two weeks, Zama probably did the smart thing in sitting at least two of its running backs, Andre Encarnacion and Richard Castillo, and allowing Harrison to see limited action. The Nov. 5 title game at this point means far more for the Trojans. Trade a couple of late regular-season games for a chance at a banner? If I’m coach Steven Merrell, I feel somewhat conflicted; you don’t want to wave a white flag, but you also want that title.
Yokota, meanwhile, for the first time since last year’s Division I title game went without a running back going over 100 yards … and still won. Part of that, of course, is due to the Panthers’ rolling up a 33-point lead at halftime, triggering the mercy rule and running clock.
But one thing the Panthers did that they hadn’t done all season was reel off several big plays. This was a team that was scoring on a short burst here, an off-tackle dive there; on Friday, Stanley Speed threw 27 yards for a touchdown to Michael Litman, who also ran 72 yards for a touchdown. Tre Bailey added a 48-yard touchdown run, and Scott Hanson’s 58-yard burst set up Bailey’s first of three touchdowns.
Thus, that balance has returned for Yokota. It can score on big plays, it can score in the air and it can score on short plays.
Friday wasn’t homecoming at Nile C. Kinnick, but it sure felt like one given a look at the more than 20 Red Devil alumni dotting the field, along with a surprise guest – former Kinnick principal and DODDS Japan district superintendent Bruce Derr. The multi-year reunion featured graduates from as far back as 1985, and included football luminary Bill “Bong” Baumann, Class of 1987, and head cheerleader Shellanie Trinidad, Class of 1993. I’d seen neither since they graduated. Trinidad is back working at Yokosuka, by the way.
And boy, you talk about timing. Did the Red Devils pick the right time to break out of a four-game slump. Dustin Kimbrell, who’d also been battling injuries, scored three times and finished with 177 yards on 18 carries in Kinnick’s 43-0 romp over Robert D. Edgren. Quinton Holden, Dustin Wilson and Aaron Stravers each rushed for a touchdown. Marcus Boehler was good on four of six extra-point tries and became the first Kinnick kicker in 18 years to boot a field goal.
If you think about it, Guam High really could have excused itself and mailed in this season after graduating 20 seniors and welcoming yet another new head coach; that post has resembled a revolving door over the years.
Well, given the Panthers’ return to the Interscholastic Football League’s Bamboo Bowl title game for the second time – they lost 14-0 to a George Washington team that avenged its 7-6 defeat against Guam High in the same game a year ago – one could think that maybe Guam High is becoming a program.
Jacob Dowdell, the Panthers’ first-year coach, says he’ll be in place for some time to come. Most of the Panthers were underclass players. While Keanu Lujan and the Geckos were the team of choice this season, enjoying their first perfect season in six years, it could be Guam High that rules the roost next season and well into the future.
Cristian Rivera looked like his old self of a season ago on Saturday in Kubasaki’s homecoming game against Singapore. He tossed two touchdown passes, each to Richard Allen, and caught an option pass for a score from his favorite target, Brandon Crawford, for 70 yards in the Dragons’ 33-0 shutout of the Falcons. Jarrett Mitchell scored a touchdown, but was held to his lowest total of the season, 68 yards on six carries.
Despite the relatively one-sided victory, Kubasaki coach Fred Bales feels Singapore, which hosts Osan American of Korea on Saturday, “will give Osan fits.” Singapore’s Falcons are an All-Star group culled from its two regular-season teams, the Oilers and Vikings; Saturday’s loss was their first action as an All-Star unit. Saturday’s game with Osan kicks off at 7 p.m. at Singapore American School.
It took a staunch,Herculean defensive effort in the fourth quarter, especially on a 70-yard drive that ended in a missed 22-yard field goal, but Seoul American prevailed over a prideful former two-time DODDS Korea champion Daegu American 10-7 in Friday’s homecoming game for the Warriors.
It was a far cry from the Falcons’ 16-0 home victory over the Warriors on Sept. 23. But for coach Rydell Wilkins, who got a 53-yard touchdown run from Ty White which proved to be the game winner, playing a close game just prior to the Falcons’ trip to Kubasaki for the Division I semifinal on Saturday was “not a bad thing for our team,” he said.
Coach Ken Walter, whose Warriors lost to Kubasaki 24-6 on Sept. 3, believes the Falcons, 41-17 losers at Kubasaki on Sept. 17, will give the Dragons problems. “Man for man, they (Falcons) have as much talent as anybody else out here,” Walter said.