Things learned, observed in Pacific high school football Week 2.0
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer takes stock, report-card style, of the Pacific’s high school football teams two weeks into the season:
-- Yokota (2-0): Two words: Line surge. One observer at Friday’s Zama American at Yokota game said, “That line is pushing people back five yards.” Zama coach Steven Merrell said, “Like a blue wave marching forward. Amazing.” Yep, they’re all back, Victor Madaris, Jesse Hogan, Max Lester, Dylan Kessler and Jake Jackson, plowing the road for the likes of Morgan Breazell (289 yards, four touchdowns, 23 carries), Raymond Butler (281 yards, three touchdowns, 15 carries) and Stanley Speed (121 yards, three touchdowns, 8 carries). At that corner-free safety spot, Speed also has an appetite for turnovers, recording two in Friday’s game. But that slender sophomore defensive end, Ke’Ondre Davis. Oh, Ke’Ondre Davis! Note to opposing coaches: Double-team that guy or your quarterback is going to be eating … um … field turf, in most cases in Japan. Now, can the Panthers finally accomplished what they failed to the last three years, win at American School In Japan’s Mustang Valley? Grade: A+
-- Kadena (1-0): Four words: Some things never change. This isn’t the overpowering, dominant Speed Inc. squad of 2009 and 2010, but they’re consistent and efficient and can do it all, on the ground, in the air and on defense as well. The variable wing-T, single-wing and double-wing packages can make defensive players’ heads spin around above their necks trying to make all the reads. Sure, everybody’s gonna keep their eyes on No. 5, Justin Sego, but fullback Joseph “Pee Wee” Hermon can run hard. And you never know what No. 2, Joey Dyer, will do, carry the ball, fake and plow into the open for a touchdown pass. Offensive line is one year older, one year wiser and much bigger and quicker than last season’s. Note to opposing coaches: Don't throw the ball in the vicinity of No. 25, defensive back David Padilla. He'll most likely think the pass was intended for HIM, instead of your receiver. Grade: A.
-- Kubasaki (1-0): Two words: Jarrett Mitchell. Anybody see that first play on Saturday against Daegu High? I mean, he was all tied up in knots for what appeared to be a three-yard loss. Yet somehow, he extricated himself, blew around the right side reversing his field and running untouched for a 43-yard touchdown. That was en route to a 232-yard, 13-carry performance, truncated when the game entered running clock in the second half. One worry that coach Fred Bales had entering the season evaporated when new quarterback Tyler Smith completed just five passes for 41 yards, but three of them went for touchdowns. Note to opposing coaches: Keep an eye on Kubasaki’s # 74; he have a voracious appetite for unblocked quarterbacks. And the young receiver corps that Bales spoke of earlier this summer is starting to pay dividends. Grade: A-.
-- Nile C. Kinnick (2-0): Two words: Cardiac kids. Twice, the Red Devils have had to come from behind, first beating Zama American 20-6 on Aug. 24 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, then surviving a see-saw battle with Robert D. Edgren for a 29-26 win on Friday at Berkey-by-the-Bay. And don’t think for a second that coach Dan Joley isn’t totally relieved at both outcomes. And that’s against Division II opponents, although this isn’t your big brother’s Edgren team that fell on hard times these last four seasons. Dustin Wilson is peaking as a quarterback during some fire-testing that would singe most any QB. And any team that isn’t keying on Quinton Holden, be it on special teams or offense, is hurting itself. Holden may be the most dangerous return man in Japan since Edgren’s Zach Latimore four years ago. Grade: B+
-- Robert D. Edgren (0-2). Three words: Up and coming. Best 0-2 team in the Pacific. Gave Yokota fits passing the ball and put up the most points they’d had on Yokota in eight years in the Aug. 24 opener; on Friday at Berkey-by-the-Bay, it was more of the same, as the Eagles scored twice on fourth-down plays, Tristan Jefferson threw his third and fourth touchdown passes of the season and Aric Butterfield and Louis Murphy struck on the ground. Where coach Blaine Miller’s young charges may be hurting most are special teams and defense (see Holden’s game-winning touchdown). Grade: B+.
-- Guam High (2-0). One word: Consistency. The Panthers’ level of opponents’ play is on an upward curve this season, starting out with cellar-dweller John F. Kennedy (44-0 on Aug. 25), then pesky Simon Sanchez (6-2 on Sept. 1) before hosting defending champion George Washington on Sept. 8. L.J. Aguon, Marcus Domingo and the offense produced fireworks against the Islanders, but did just enough to beach the Sharks. That will have to change if the Panthers have any hope of beating the Geckos. Guam High’s defense, with four players racking up double-figure tackles and Juwan Jacobs making himself an opponents’ nightmare, can’t do it by itself. And the Panthers must take care of the football; the Geckos turned three turnovers into points in their 44-0 season-opening win on Saturday. Grade: B.
-- Seoul American (1-1). Five words: Take care of the football. This is clearly not your older brother’s Falcons’ team that won Division I titles in 2006 and 2008, and clearly having to replace those three departed stars Harold Martin, Ty White and Tomiwa Akinbayo is more of a chore than first thought. Falcons gained just 47 yet offensive yards and gave up three interceptions to Kadena, which, while not overpowering like its 2009 and 2010 championship teams did a serviceable job shutting down the Falcons. Plenty of potential. Once the line gets in gear, protects quarterback Cameron Mason and giving running back Ronald Dogan more daylight, things will improve. Grade: C+
-- Daegu High (0-2). Two words: Inexperience, injuries. This isn’t your older brother’s Warriors team that has won the last two Division II championship games. Lacking that superstar leader, the Warriors clearly also don’t have the experience that previous Daegu teams possessed. They can move the ball in the air, evidence 95 yards against Kubasaki, but they gained just seven rushing yards against Kubasaki. And they gave up a fumble, an interception and two sacks. Quarterback Caleb Page is battling through injuries; backup Steven Robinet has the ability, but clearly needs more experience. And he’s also hurt. Signature play was the first one, when Daegu had Kubasaki running back Jarrett Mitchell tackled in the backfield for a loss, but he tore away and reversed field and ran untouched down the right sideline for a touchdown. Maybe things will be different against D-II opponents, but for now, Grade: C+
-- Zama American (0-2). Three words: Injuries and finishing. Trojans were already without three starters entering the season, including senior running back Mitchell “Lightning” Harrison and quarterback Michael Torres, only to have receiver-turned-quarterback David Coleman tweak a knee and fullback Andre “Thunder” Encarnacion re-aggravate the ankle that saddled him most of last season. No question, Zama’s line can move opponents; Encarnacion has 283 yards in two games. But they have trouble finishing what they start. A question now of whether Rafael Morales can fill in well enough for Encarnacion and the Trojans find more rushing weapons to take the pressure off them. Grade: C-.
-- Osan American, American School In Japan = incomplete. Neither has played a regulation game against American opposition, although that will change this weekend when the Mustangs seek to make it four straight over Yokota on Friday at Mustang Valley and Osan tries to open its path to hosting the Division II title game for the first time since 2005 when it visits rejuvenated Edgren on Saturday.