If you’re stationed at Ramstein Air Base or Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany or Italy's Aviano Air Base, chances are you might know some players selected to the All-Air Force softball tryout camps.
Consider six were picked from Ramstein and two each from Spangdahlem and Aviano, more than half the total of 18 airmen based overseas, 10 from U.S. Air Forces Europe and eight from Pacific Air Forces.
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Yokota prepares for the journey south to battle defending champion Foster for the USFJ-AFL Torii Bowl trophy:
Perhaps the most overused quote I’ve ever heard in my years of watching football in the Pacific is: “Offense wins games, defense wins championships.”
Don Meredith said it over and over again on Monday Night Football in its infancy: “Mistakes will kill you.”
Few times were either or both of those football clichés more prevalent than in last Saturday’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League North Division championship game in which the Yokota Warriors scored on one turnover and converted two others into scores in their 39-6 romp over the Misawa Jets.
Arguably one of the most lopsided championship contests, division or league, in USFJ-AFL history was pretty much over in the second quarter thanks to a 4-minute, 25-second stretch in which the Warriors did it on both sides of the ball.
¬¬-- Defensive lineman Ernie Carrasco forced a hurried throw by Jets quarterback Douglas Brown that sailed into Yokota linebacker Mark Rocamontes’ hands at the Misawa 33. Toward the left corner he ran and made it 12-0 Warriors.
-- Two plays into Misawa’s next possession, a bad snap sailed over Brown’s head and was recovered by Braxton Gilkey. One play later, former Jets quarterback Darone Frierson found Robert Harris Jr. in the right corner of the end zone on a timing pattern for an 18-0 lead.
-- After an ugly sequence in which each team had points taken off the board due to penalties and one changed call (more on that later), Frierson again found Harris in the same corner for a score that made it 26-0.
Yokota picked on Misawa’s cornerbacks all night long. Frierson also hit Darryl Mosby on timing routes for touchdowns of 11 and 19 yards, the latter capping the scoring for the night.
When Frierson wasn’t going 8-for-15 for a meager but economical 59 yards and four touchdowns, Yokota’s backfield enjoyed a field day, Kevin Fortin, Anthony McNeill and Kevin Peoples gaining 202 yards on 38 carries. The latter’s 8-yard run put Yokota on the board less than seven minutes into the contest.
But it was the defense that set the tone and kept the tone going for Yokota all night. Four interceptions. Three fumble recoveries, including one by Rocamontes.
It wasn’t all neatness for Yokota, though. The Warriors were flagged 11 times for 109 yards. And special teams weren’t exactly a blessing for Yokota, either.
-- Justin Stabler was one of Misawa’s few bright spots, gaining 165 yards on four returns and very nearly breaking a couple for scores.
-- The Warriors were penalized four times for illegal blocks in the back on punt returns.
As for the calls, a great many sent head coaches Selwyn Jones of Yokota and Misawa’s Jeremy Sanders into states of fury. Each side was warned more than once about keeping feelings and emotions in check; in fact, after it appeared Yokota had stopped the Jets on a goal-line stand, the Warriors sideline was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct, putting the ball at the Yokota 4 with a first-and-goal. Brian Childress scored Misawa’s lone points one play later.
Among other things that were the subject of debate during and after the game:
-- Misawa’s use of an offense called the A-11, a hybrid formation developed last decade by Piedmont High School in California that has been outlawed by National Federation of State High School Associations, which rules govern USFJ-AFL play. The formation’s premise was to take advantage of a loophole in the rules governing kick formations to disguise which offensive players are eligible to receive a pass on any given play. It was used in 2007 and 2008 before NFHS closed the loophole in February 2009, eliminating important facets of the formation and in actuality making it unusable. However, the league’s bylaws don’t specifically address the A-11 or its use.
-- The USFJ-AFL’s mercy rule, which states that once a team secures a 30-point lead in a league game, the game is played with a running clock. Once the lead shrinks below 30, a regulation clock resumes; however, it was argued that NFHS rules state a regulation clock resumes once the lead shrinks below 21 points. The league rules and bylaws don’t specify that; thus, once Childress scored, the game went back to regulation clock before Mosby’s 19-yard pass gave Yokota a plus-30-point lead for good.
-- Among penalties that wiped points off the board was what appeared to be intentional grounding of the ball by Brown in the Misawa end zone for what would have been scored a safety and making it 20-0 Yokota. Those points were removed when one of the upfield officials said Misawa had a receiver in the general area where the ball was thrown.
-- Each team had touchdowns taken off the board, Misawa’s Davonn McMillan’s 80-yard scoring catch erased by an illegal formation penalty. Most football rules specify that an offense line up with seven on the line and four off the line. Yokota’s Joe Stevens had a 55-yard punt-return touchdown negated by – you guessed it – a block-in-the-back penalty.
Back to the Torii Bowl title game for the third time in four years for the Warriors.
And back into the roiling heat of Okinawa summer, which can at times be more than beastly.
The game’s on Aug. 4. The hydration process begins two days before and ends a day after the return home. That’s a no-fooling strategy even with a 6 p.m. kickoff. Ask anybody who’s played football at any time of day or played a softball game in the Firecracker Shootout at the highest of high noons.
Three parts water for every part sports drink (the non-alcoholic type), for you need water to process all the sugars in sports drinks. Avoid soft drinks, Red Bull and Monster; they only make you thirsty. And avoid salt tablets as well.
The big challenge, as always, with long-haul football travels is locking down air transportation and ensuring enough people can be released from work to fly to Okinawa on Friday, play on Saturday and return on Sunday.
Long over are the days when Air Force or Navy aviators seeking to bulk up their flying hours could haul a football team for a “training mission” hither and thither. Base commands and force support/services lend very little support to varsity teams, so they’re pretty much left on their own to scam space-available seats on board an Air Mobility Command aircraft. Seats on Navy Air Logistics Office flights, which at one time were plentiful, are hard if not impossible to come by these days. And it’s not their mission to support football teams, who, like they, are hired and commissioned to defend the country, not kick an oblong-shaped spheroid around a grass gridiron.
These teams are no strangers to each other, but before anybody uses the Warriors’ 27-6 home win over Foster to gauge what might happen, keep in mind, the Bulldogs left starting quarterback Sanford James and several other key starters home. It will be much, much different this time around, since Foster’s home and the shoe might be on the other foot in terms of who Yokota can bring.
Somehow, some way, they’ll make it there and we can likely expect a good, solid, hard-hitting battle for 60 minutes. Ten days to go from this writing. Best of luck to both sides.
Are you ready for some soccer, Okinawa?
FC Ryukyu, the island’s lone pro football club, is planning a day-long, island-wide soccer festival starting at noon Aug. 4 at Okinawa’s Comprehensive Athletic Park near Camp Foster and Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.
The festival’s centerpiece is a Japan Football League match against Kyushu-based Fujieda MyFootball Club, which starts at 4 p.m. Organizers are hoping for 10,000 spectators to attend, and are offering food, soft and hard drinks and music as enticements.
Elementary-school students are admitted free; junior- and senior-high students must pay 500 yen and adults 1,000. But those who print out the attached flyer can receive four free tickets to the event, organizers said. There is no charge for the pre-match festival.
For information, visit FC Ryukyu’s Facebook page or the team’s home page.
Sam Green Jr. has come full circle where basketball life in Japan is concerned.
The 22-year-old who starred for Nile C. Kinnick at Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, is back in his native land as a second-round draft pick of the Akita Northern Happinets of basketball league Japan, the country’s top professional tier. The team announced it had come to a “basic agreement” with Green in its official blog on July 3. The draft was conducted on June 19.
“I never even dreamed of being selected in the draft, so I was surprised and very happy,” Green was quoted on the Happinets’ Web site (it’s in Japanese, so you’ll need a good translator).
The Happinets declined to comment further. A team spokeswoman said the organization would have an official announcement when it introduces all its new players Aug. 2.
Green grew up in Kanagawa Prefecture southwest of Tokyo, the son of an American father, Sam Green Sr., and Japanese mother, Noriko. The Happinets’ website identifies the younger Green as Samuel Sawaji Jr., the name he used when his parents signed him up for bjLeague tryouts.
Green arrived at Kinnick one year too late to appear at center court in a Far East High School Boys Division I Tournament; his Red Devils lost at Seoul American in the 2004 final, and didn’t come close to center court in his time there.
Following graduation, Green played for Yokosuka’s Seahawks base team and on some company-level teams before going to Gordon College, a community college in Barnesville, Ga. He tried out and was cut in 2009 and 2010 before making the team – and playing limited minutes – as a walk-on in 2011-12. “I never gave up. I kept asking coach what I had to do to make the team,” Green said.
His Highlanders won the Georgia Junior College Athletic Association tournament and appeared in the NJCAA national tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, where it lost both games it played.
Back to Japan he went, and attended bjLeague tryouts June 4 and June 11. Advised by a bjLeague official to try his luck in the draft, he did just that, becoming the second selection of the second round.
In a telephone conversation Wednesday, Green said he hopes playing pro ball in Japan is far from his final stop. “I still dream, as long as I work hard, I can go anywhere. I want to play in the States, or even in Europe,” Green said.
Green is far from the first. But very few folks associated with the military overseas have dabbled in professional basketball. A goodly number of Japan-based GIs officiate bjLeague games in Tokyo, northern and southwestern Japan and Okinawa. A sample of those who’ve played or coached in the pros:
-- Forward Rich Alvarez, Kinnick Class of 1999, is a journeyman Philippine Basketball Association player who helped Ateneo de Manila win the 2002 University Athletic Association of the Philippines title. Alvarez is playing for his eighth PBA team, the Talk ’n Text Tropang Texters.
-- Forward Bryan Simpson, formerly with the Kadena Air Base Falcons base varsity team, played two seasons for the two-time bjLeague champion Ryukyu Golden Kings of Okinawa.
-- Keith Richardson, who works for Marine Corps Community Services on Okinawa, has been a Kings assistant since their inception in 2009.
-- Then, there’s a guy who was discovered by Dale Brown during a Louisiana State basketball tour of Europe. While giving a clinic to soldiers at Wildflecken, West Germany, Brown spotted a gangly 6-foot-6 youngster with huge shoes. As Sports Illustrated’s Curry Kirkpatrick reported 26 years ago, Brown approached him and said:
“What’s your rank, soldier?” Brown asked.
“No rank. I’m 13 years old,” Shaquille O’Neal replied.
“Uh, your dad around?” Brown asked.
You’ve seen the kind. At virtually every American base overseas, you’ll find them at the venerable auto hobby shop – guys and gals who hunger for working on automobiles and can’t stop working on them any more than they can stop breathing. The types who make stuck valves magically unclog themselves. Who make frozen bolts melt at first touch. And those shop managers who patiently wait for the last guy to finish a tricky front-end replacement at 2:30 a.m. and eventually gives the guy his own key to the place.
James Price is a huge fan of folks like that. For it was the hobby shop at Misawa Air Base that came to the rescue of Price’s Yokosuka Seahawks football team, which had one of its nine-passenger vans break down en route to Saturday’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League North Division semifinal game.
No fewer than four years ago, 8th U.S. Army led the way in supplying soldier-athletes to the All-Army men’s and women’s softball tryout camps.
Ten-time All-Army selection Elmer Mason joined the men’s team as its co-captain for the second straight year.
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer gazes at the new U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League South Division landscape and muses about how a last-place team could win the division if it keeps this up:
Allen Iverson, then of the Philadelphia 76ers, made no mistaking his disdain for the concept of practice in an infamous video gone viral on YouTube many moons ago.
You just can’t keep a good former Guam High girls soccer striker away for long.
Nineteen months after Meagan Speck led the Panthers to their second island championship then transferred to Terry Sanford (N.C. ) High School, the soon-to-be North Carolina-Charlotte footballer returned to Guam. There, she’s working out with her old Guam National side teammates as they prepare for the East Asian Football Championship qualifying tournament July 17-23.
"It does not matter where you play your high school ball at. If you work hard, you will be noticed."
Sounds like something I might say in describing one of our DODDS Pacific or international students embarking on a higher-heights challenge.
Not this time. These were the words spotted on this link to the SE Ultimate 100 football camp at Bill Badgett Stadium in College Park, Ga., giving us their take on Jarrett Mitchell, soon-to-be-junior and reigning Stars and Stripes Pacific boys Athlete of the Year.
Great news for Kubasaki, for Mitchell stays until he graduates in 2014. Great news for whichever university or college picks him up; they're getting a good one. Better news for Kubasaki is, the Dragons apparently will get senior transfer Aaron Stravers from Nile C. Kinnick to help out in the backfield.
Can't wait to see those two play. Can't wait to see how camp improved Mitchell's game. I'm sure coach Fred Bales feels the same way.
His old teammate Troy Williams remembers the play to this day: Three yards short of the goal line, coach Jim Ferinden called pro split, sweep right, with tailback Tommy McMillin taking a pitchout hopefully around right end for the winning touchdown on the game’s last play.
“I remember blocking during that sweep play,” Williams said. “I think the prior play was a pass attempt.”
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer shakes his head at what interservice sports has become in the Pacific and elsewhere:
It can most certainly be argued that the Pacific interservice basketball Triple Crown and softball Grand Slam circuits, as we knew them in the 1980s, ’90s and 2000s, aren’t even a shell of what they used to be. These are neither your uncle’s Firecracker Shootout on Okinawa, nor your pop’s Summer Slam on Guam.
Face it: They’re dead, if not on life support. With blood pressure steadily falling and heart rate shallow and rapid.