Things learned, observed in Pacific prep grid Week 2.0
Published: August 28, 2010
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer gazes at the calendar, two days before school opens, and wonders where summer went so quickly ...
-- At least for now, Zama American still rules the DODDS Japan football roost, but the impetus for the Trojans' 32-8 season-opening victory Friday over Nile C. Kinnick came from an unlikely source. Sophomore Andre Encarnacion's two sacks and fumble-return touchdown helped Zama pull away from the Red Devils in the second half.
-- Until then, the Red Devils kept themselves within shouting distance, a pretty good job despite missing five starters.
-- Kinnick's defense keyed on Zama's yards guy Michael Spencer all game, yet Spencer -- a few months separated from knee surgery -- managed 88 yards on 14 touchdowns, including a 21-yard TD on his final carry, plus 14 tackles, several of them open-field, solo, drive-stuffing efforts.
-- I think people have caught on to the fact that Zama coach Steven Merrell likes to send Spencer between tackles, and Merrell likewise has caught on to the fact that he can make hay on the outside by sending holdover D.J. Ward and newcomer Mitchell Harrison out on sweeps to each side. He just needs to do it more, to open the interior for Spencer more.
-- Both Kinnick and Zama, which each turned the ball over three times, have much to work on. Taking better care of the football, for starters. Execution, too, but of course that's going to happen the first game of the season.
-- Merrell clearly wasn't happy that his offense produced just 228 yards on 44 plays, including 183 on 40 carries. But that new QB Matt Cole went an economic 3-for-3 for 45 yards, all to Jonathan Neyland, had to be a pleasant surprise.
-- It may not have seemed like a good night for the Red Devils, but below the surface of just a 3-yard touchdown run by Richard Villareal and his two-point conversion lie a good many positives that portend a Kinnick football turnaround, perhaps by midseason.
-- New coach Daniel Joley's offensive scheme, kind of a hybrid single wing featuring plenty of traps, shows potential, but the Red Devils need to work on quickness in execution, getting the ball quickly to the backs and the backs hitting the holes fast and hard.
-- GREAT seeing Robert Stovall, architect of Kinnick's mid- to late-1990s dynasty, back in the saddle as Kinnick's defensive assistant, he of the two questions now updated after Joley's arrival: 1) Are you proud of the way you played? and 2) Did you play with passion? Pride and passion is the team's new motto.
-- Well, look what's back? Up north at Misawa Air Base, the Yokota ground machine produced 347 yards on 28 carries including six touchdown carries, four by Devin Day and two by Morgan Breazille as the Panthers clobbered Robert D. Edgren 49-8. Breazille added a 90-yard kick-return touchdown to begin the second half.
-- Just one game, of course, but I'd say Tim Pujol's Yokota Ground Machine might finally be back after a couple of years of slumping. But there is that home opener on Friday against defending Kanto Plain champion American School In Japan; that should be the litmus test.
-- Then again, injuries were a major factor in bungling things up for the Panthers the last two years. The common denominator? Losing fullbacks Tony Presnell and Rainey Daley the last two years. Keep the current crew healthy and there may be very little that can stop Yokota's wishbone attack.
-- To be fair, Edgren's run defense kept Yokota at bay between tackles, "but they ate us alive on the outside," first-year Eagles varsity coach Michael Gros said. Xavier Major's 25-yard touchdown catch from Zach Davis and Davis' two-point run accounted for Edgren's only points.
-- Speaking of solid ground games, Guam High's move away from the spread offense to its own wishbone attack paid solid dividends as David John Cruz, Devon Jacobs and Tegan Brown combined for four rushing touchdowns in a 26-8 win over Simon Sanchez.
-- Sounds as if Guam High has also dialed up the defense, behind Andrew Galvan and Thearits Eaton, who combined for 25 solo tackles.
-- And it also sounds as if there was no hangover from the decision earlier this week by Guam High to forego a shot at a Far East Division I title and honor its commitment to the Interscholastic Football League.
-- Still, that had to be some kind of a difficult decision for coach Billy Henry, his players and Panthers Football Nation. Can there be any doubt that 100 percent of the folks involved for certain was asking if there was any way they could both play for the IFL and the Division I titles? Unfortunately, life sometimes dictates you can only do one thing or another thing, but not both. Life's like that.
-- Here's how play-in weekend Oct. 16 will work now: Seoul American is automatically back in the Division I playoffs Nov. 6 and 12 on Okinawa. Japan's No. 2 will visit Okinawa's No. 2 on the 16th, with the winner to qualify for the playoffs. The No. 2 vs. No. 2 loser hosts Guam High on Oct. 30, which will serve as the Panthers' version of a DODDS playoff game.
-- It sort of works like the old Playoff Bowl that the NFL used to stage between its conference runners-up in the 1960s.
-- That may change -- again -- next season, when Osan American is expected to flip up to Division I when its enrollment will undoubtedly exceed 360.
More coming after Saturday's games.