Things learned, observed in Pacific high school Week 4.0
A year ago, DODDS Pacific funded a full, complete season series of interarea football games between DODDS Korea’s three teams and the Okinawa Activities Council’s two.
That group of five dwindled to four this season when Osan American, a Division II team, opted not to play Kubasaki and two-time defending D-I champion Kadena and instead scheduled a Sept. 24 game at Zama American.
And that prompted one coach to suggest that DODDS Pacific should, once and for all, set a full, complete football season schedule.
To which I plan in this space to revive a plan I proposed after the 2004 season, in which I, too, suggested a Pacific-wide season schedule, Division I vs. Division I teams and D-II against D-II teams. And a plan that would get every DODDS Pacific team on the gridiron in one form or another.
Teams that play in leagues with more than one D-I team play each other twice per season, home and away. Example: Yokota plays Nile C. Kinnick twice, home and away, then plays against the Pacific’s other D-I schools once per season, home and away on a rotating basis as they do in college ball. That gives Yokota six D-I games, one game each against Guam High, Seoul American, Kadena and Kubasaki. It also leaves room in the schedule for Yokota and Kinnick to play a home-and-home with longtime Kanto Plain rival American School In Japan.
Teams in leagues with just one D-I team, Seoul American and Guam High, will have a more creative schedule. They would play each of their D-I foes at least once, home-and-home on a rotating basis as they do annually in college, which gives each five games against D-I teams, and two times against three of those teams, selected randomly each season, two home and one away one season and one home and two away the next, to give each eight regular-season games.
The top four teams would qualify for the Division I playoffs. The top seed would host the No. 4 and the No. 2 would host the No. 3 in the first round. The winners would face off at the highest remaining seed for the D-I title.
Here’s where some rivalry games would be lost, such as Seoul American playing Osan and Daegu American and Zama American battling ASIJ. But your small-schools teams would get a welcome infusion of teams thanks to a proposal that makes less much more.
Have the D-II teams play nine-man football. That would permit smaller schools that don’t play football at the moment, such as E.J. King of Sasebo Naval Base and Matthew C. Perry of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, an opportunity to field teams, whereas before, 11-man football prevented them from doing so for lack of bodies.
This would give the D-II field six teams, Osan and Daegu in Korea, and E.J. King, M.C. Perry, Robert D. Edgren and Zama in Japan.
These teams would play a full double round-robin schedule, giving each 10 regular-season games. The top two teams would meet at the site of the higher seed for the D-II championship.
As to what ASIJ would do, they play Japanese teams during their preseason and have laced it up against Singapore American’s All-Star team in years past. I doubt there would be a shortage of opponents who’d be willing to fill out the remainder of the Mustangs’ schedule. Or perhaps let the Mustangs into the D-I playoffs (see below).
Keanu Lujan, Derek Santos and George Washington are about as for real as any Geckos team since the run of five straight Interscholastic Football League titles in the late 1980s under Loring Cruz. But the real story with GW is defense. The Geckos have outscored three foes 120-0, and utterly manhandled their closest opposition, Guam High, 35-0 in Week 3.
It will never happen, but teams such as GW this season, and ASIJ two years ago, give me pause to wonder what would happen if DODDS would ever permit non-DODDS teams to participate in the Far East football playoffs. So what if those entities have different eligibility standards? What DODDS should do is mandate to those teams: If you want to play in our playoffs, provide us with confirmation that every player on your roster meets DODDS eligibility standards: 2.0 GPA with no F’s, eight semesters clock ticking and no players 19 years old before Sept. 1.
When they’re not playing the Geckos, Guam High remains the island’s second-best option, and Sean Sweet appears to be coming into his own as the island’s best passer since Father Duenas Memorial’s S.P. Phillips. That 8-for-12 performance for 185 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-0 shutout Saturday at Okkodo was as good as any that Panthers Nation has ever seen. “He’s a good decision-maker,” coach Jacob Dowdell said.
Told you Sweet was a good fit for Dowdell’s spread option.
And those defensive tackle hounds, Nygee Smith (10 tackles, 3 sacks) and Theatris Eaton (12 tackles, 3 sacks) continue to wreak havoc on opponents not named Geckos.
As for ASIJ, which had been known for its hybrid Wing-T/spread option attack, it appears as if they’re going ground first this season, if Saturday’s 42-26 home win over Zama is any indicator. Ken Yajima and Zach Oshima combined for 289 yards and four touchdowns on 29 carries – a hair under 10 yards per attempt. Holdover quarterback Hayden Jardine was just 7-for-14 for 86 yards, but when a team runs that efficiently, why throw?
As for Zama, the Trojans just might be the best 0-2 team in the Pacific. They’ve scored 52 points, more than any other winless team, and can do it on all sides of the ball. James Liker is starting to feel his oats as a passer (6-for-10, 123 yards, 1 touchdown) and Mitch Harrison ripped off some huge runs en route to a 146-yard, 6-carry day. David Coleman pleaded constantly with the coaching staff to let him into the 39-26 season-opening loss to Kinnick so he could make some catches; 113 yards and a touchdown on five catches shows he can back up his talk.
Speaking of passing attacks, what an inspired move by Kinnick coach Dan Joley to promote jayvee-er Dustin Wilson, a sophomore, to starting quarterback. Wilson’s old man, JV coach Gary Wilson, probably isn’t a fan of the idea – “Where will I find another quarterback?” he asked me rhetorically last week in a phone conversation – but Joley sure must be – 7-for-18, 257 yards, 2 touchdowns, each to Corey Smoak, in a 13-0 shutout at Robert D. Edgren. Smoak had 201 yards on five catches. That’s in addition to regular Dustin Kimbrell’s 176 all-purpose yards on 16 touches.
What of those 18 penalties against Kinnick to two against Edgren?
This Kinnick team, which eclipsed its entire win total of last season, is starting to turn a corner, just as I suspected it would under Joley and former head coach Robert Stovall.
Not since Oct. 21, 1998, had Kadena and Kubasaki played to such a tight outcome as they did on Friday, when the Panthers had to come from behind twice to edge Kubasaki 15-14 in the first of two games to decide Okinawa’s top seed in the D-I playoffs starting Oct. 3.
Defense ruled the day in this one. The teams were held to a combined 265 yards of total offense, just 180 by Kadena, playing its second game of the post-Speed, Inc. era. Kadena recorded five quarterback sacks, a punt block and an interception; the Dragons recovered two Panthers fumbles in the first quarter.
Joey Dyer looks like the real deal at running back for Kadena. He carried 15 times, just twice for negative yardage, and scored both Panthers touchdowns, the last one on a 19-yard run with :29.6 seconds left in the third quarter.
Freshman Justin Sego’s two-point conversion gave the Panthers the final victory margin. He’s just the first freshman to start in any Sergio Mendoza-coached team’s backfield since he arrived on island nearly 10 years ago.
Gabriel Ahner is the biggest thing on the field in the OAC.
Jarrett Mitchell, a sophomore running back who darted 70 yards for Kubasaki’s second touchdown, is going to be a beast. Forget the ball security issues he had at Daegu; this kid can flat fly.
Once the young Panthers figure everything out, they’ll be as solid as they’ve been the past two years.
The Dragons’ rebuilding interior line has to provide senior quarterback Cristian Rivera the same type of protection he had against Daegu, or he’ll have trouble staying on the field. Five sacks is way too many.
Weather might play a role in whether the reciprocal games in the Okinawa-Korea season series take place on Saturday. Tropical Depression 18W is headed toward Okinawa, forecast to intensify and rake the island with 58-mph sustained winds and 75-mph gusts Thursday evening into Friday afternoon. Daegu and Seoul are slated to fly in that day.