Things learned, observed in Pacific high school football Week 4.0
Published: September 17, 2012
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer grumbles once again: How much more fun it is to cover football than chase typhoons?
-- The great postponement debate: How serendipitous it was that the DODDS Pacific Far East Athletic Council met last week? On Thursday, with Typhoon Sanba bearing down on Okinawa – and looking like the worst typhoon to hit the island in 13 years – DODDS officials called off the Yokota at Kubasaki and Kadena at Daegu High football games.
Kadena could have flown to Korea and Yokota to Okinawa on Friday. Both games could have been played on Saturday, albeit the Panthers at Dragons game in some pretty horrific weather. But neither Kadena nor Yokota could have flown home on Sunday. Anybody on Okinawa who experienced those howling winds and breakers on the island’s east side (gusts topped out at 123 mph) would have agreed, the chances of flying into or out of Naha International were quite dicey at best (flights resumed late in the day).
But unlike past years when it would have been considered over and done, a pair of inter-district games that counted for nothing. This year, with the new full-divisional “everybody-plays-everybody” format, the Yokota at Kubasaki game IS important and MUST be made up.
Several options are in discussion, the most viable one being Kadena and Kubasaki moving their scheduled game on Oct. 26 back to Oct. 19, which is a bye week for Kadena. That would create a bye for Kubasaki on Oct. 27, the same week Yokota is idle, and they could make up the game then.
Another option would be playing the game on Nov. 10, a week before the D-I title game, which would force DODDS Pacific to buy tickets on short notice and probably at a higher price than if they played in October. (The Division I title game is on Nov. 17. That leaves DODDS officials less than a week to buy tickets for a team to travel to a game scheduled on Nov. 17.)
The third option, least attractive because other schools would lose games, would have Yokota axing its Oct. 5 home game with American School In Japan and Kubasaki foregoing its Oct. 6 game at Osan American, then playing on Oct. 6 on Okinawa.
What I’m sure will be discussed at the spring FEAC video conference will be what can be done to create more flexibility in the season schedule to avert situations such as Aug. 24, when the Osan at Kadena game got scrapped due to Typhoon Bolaven, and the two games last Saturday.
Typhoons and other natural disasters, their related transportation headaches and sports-related cancellations/postponements, are a fact of life in the northwest Pacific. There are so many teams playing football and so little wiggle room for makeup of delayed games that DODDS Pacific officials have to squeeze every last drop out of the turnip to make things right.
Bolaven and Sanba happened early enough in the season and involved two games that meant nothing in the D-I and D-II standings. But if another typhoon occurs, or heaven forbid an earthquake up north, and if more intra-divisional games are involved, especially ones that involve travel, well, then DODDS Pacific is up a creek with a broken oar.
The DODDS football playoffs have been a living, breathing, ever-changing organism since their inception in November 2005. What would they be without more changes for next season?
-- To go or not to go for it: One of the most debated aspects of the Zama American at Osan American game on Saturday, won by the visiting Trojans 19-2, was what occurred in the closing seconds with Zama driving on the Cougars’ goal line.
The game was pretty much in hand, but Zama coach Steven Merrell wanted to come out of the game with a 20-point differential, the maximum allowed under new DODDS Pacific rules designed in case three or more teams tie for a title-game berth in either division. That’s the second tiebreaker, behind head-to-head results between each team.
So, Zama called a timeout with scant seconds left and the ball in Osan’s red zone, trying to score another touchdown or a field goal. That had the pro-Cougars crowd in an uproar, thinking that Zama was trying to run up the score.
This is probably going to anger some folks in each camp, but … there is no true right or wrong answer. It mattered not what Merrell tried or tried not to do in that instance. He would have been damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.
Turned out, Zama did not score in the closing seconds, leaving the Trojans with a plus-17 point differential for the game. As he told me afterward, had he not gone for more points and if the season ended with him losing out on tiebreaker points, he would have been kicking himself for not trying to score late against Osan.
The Cougars also have a legitimate argument. Osan and Zama only play each other once during the season, and the Trojans hold the head-to-head tiebreaker edge over Osan. Just from an appearances standpoint, Merrell calling the timeout created the impression among the powder-blue-and-black faithful that the Trojans were trying to run up the score, even though Merrell insisted otherwise.
Neither side was completely right. Neither side was completely wrong. But little doubt, I feel, that Osan fans will remember this for a long time.
-- A Red Devil of a turnaround: No, I didn’t see that coming. After that frustrating, angering 42-0 loss to Kadena at Kubasaki on Sept. 8, I had thought Nile C. Kinnick’s season was pretty much done.
Whatever coach Dan Joley did to turn things around, evidenced by the Red Devils’ 13-6 stunner over American School In Japan, he did well. He assumed the blame for having the “wrong game plan” against Kadena, then went to huge extents to tell the players to have short memories. Oh, yes, learn from those mistakes, but don’t dwell on them, don’t hang your heads, carry yourselves with Red Devil pride and come out, all barrels blazing, against the Mustangs.
An offensive line that looked porous against Kadena held its ground against the Mustangs. The defense forced mistake after mistake, two of which Kinnick turned into points. And Dustin Wilson, the quarterback so harried and hassled by Kadena’s defense, took charge and ran for both touchdowns.
All of which, along with the finest marching band in the Pacific, combined to make for a joyous evening at Berkey-by-the-Bay, a feeling Kinnick and its Football Fan-atics have not experienced since their last Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools title in 1998.
That’s not to say that the Red Devils (3-1) are a mail-in to wallop Yokota or Kubasaki when they face them. But the Panthers and Dragons will know they’ve been in a battle. It says here, Kinnick football is turning the corner.
-- Panthers survive a scare: Just as Kinnick was coming off a low against Kadena, so was Guam High coming off a major high with their 19-8 “upset” (the Panthers don’t feel it was) over defending Interscholastic Football League champion George Washington. And it truly appeared as if the Panthers were suffering emotional hangover from that game, as they trailed Okkodo 12-6 entering the fourth quarter of last Friday’s game. Worse, linebacker Brandon “Wolf” Saville was injured and Guam High lost speedy back Damian Dimmick to injury early against the Bulldogs.
Up stepped quarterback L.J. Aguon, running back Tegan Brown and reserve back Terry Geller, channeling their own super hero and taking the ground game to the Bulldogs. Aguon scored on two quarterback draws to lead the fourth-quarter assault and the three combined for 247 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries.
The final: 26-12 Guam High. Defense held the Bulldogs to 38 yards. Okkodo managed its scores on a 77-yard fumble return and a punt block that set up the other touchdown. Joshua Foronda led the defensive assault with two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Just as importantly, they learned a very tough lesson. Don’t let down against anybody. Not even bottom-feeders Southern or John F. Kennedy. You never know when somebody will pull a Louisiana-Monroe and win a game that the favorite was supposed to win.