Published: August 31, 2011
Tropical Storm Talas has claimed its first two sports victims.
The storm, forecast to pass well west of Tokyo, is apparently close enough that the 8th Kanto Kup softball tournament scheduled this weekend at Yokota Park on Yokota Air Base's east side has been postponed until Columbus Day weekend, officials announced Wednesday.
Also, the Robert D. Edgren at Zama American high school football game, an important one regarding the DODDS Japan Division II standings, has been postponed from its 7 p.m. Friday kickoff. Tentatively, Edgren and Zama will meet Sept. 16 at Misawa, and again Sept. 30 at Zama, according to DODDS Japan district officials.
Published: August 27, 2011
Every so often it happens, and through no fault of the coach or anybody else at the school, considering the transient environment of any DODDS or international school. People simply don’t pass along the corporate memory attached to various stars who became icons within their programs while there, but whose memory fades as their coach, athletics director, administrators and others move onto different things over the years.
Anyway, when Zama American’s varsity football team entered its home Trojans field on a rainy Friday evening to face arch-rival Nile C. Kinnick … there was Jon Limas, running back-linebacker, sporting the No. 8 on his front and back.
It’s the same jersey number worn from 1983-86 by wide receiver-safety-kick returner Kevin Maxwell, who became the first player in Kanto Plain Association of Secondary School history to become a four-time All-Kanto selection, and the first to become selected to the All-Far East Tournament boys basketball team four times.
A humble, grounded, friendly person as well as a great athlete, he did the things that many peers wish they did or bragged about such things to their girlfriends to impress them. He didn’t need to thump his chest or style or shout. His play did it for him.
Jersey No. 8 was retired by then-Zama American athletics director and football coach Jack Minor, with the blessing of then-principal Jim Szoka. Soon after, Maxwell was starring as a wide receiver at the University of Georgia. To this day, he is vice president of operations for DHL’s northeast corridor out of West Hartford, Conn.
To me, it’s high time that Maxwell’s jersey number was given an official, on-field retirement ceremony, maybe during Zama’s homecoming game. And have that joined by No. 32, worn by Michael Spencer, the running back-linebacker who led the Trojans to their first DODDS Japan and Far East Division II titles while rushing for 2,276 yards and 23 touchdowns the last two seasons.
Zama has retired one jersey, the No. 14 belonging to the late rising star sophomore Melody K. Halloran, whose life, sadly, was taken from us much too soon on Feb. 28, 1991, in a car accident on Long Drive on Zama’s east side. It took a death to honor one player’s uniform number. Let’s also recognize the stellar play of Spencer and Maxwell and honor them in life.
Talk about your games that turn on their heads. It looked on Friday as if Zama would cruise to a season-opening victory over Kinnick on rainy, sloggy Trojans Field.
The Trojans’ 18-7 lead at intermission was pretty much resoundingly highlighted by junior fullback Andre Encarnacion’s 4-yard pass catch for a touchdown. He was met at the goal line by three Red Devils defenders. So, he just lowered a shoulder and scattered all three in different directions and went over the goal line standing up. Kind of like the way Richard Kiel’s Samson character clotheslined that running back in the 1974 movie The Longest Yard, only this time, the running back winning out.
Then … BOING! … Kinnick got its special-teams mojo in high gear, to the tune of 260 yards and a touchdown on five second-half returns. Dustin Kimbrell set up two touchdowns with returns of 73 and 86 yards, and newcomer Akish Davis took a punt and returned it 60 yards for a score. Kinnick scored 26 unanswered points. From 18-7 down to 33-18 ahead.
Zama got back within a touchdown late, Encarnacion scoring the second of his two touchdowns, but Kimbrell slammed the coffin shut with a 35-yard touchdown run to cap the scoring.
Kinnick was outgained 285-167 yards by Zama. But it’s like I was told many years ago, the best teams are the ones who take advantage of the most mistakes by the other team. Zama fumbled the ball away seven times, three of which were recovered by David Sledge of Kinnick. You keep giving the other team short fields, they’re bound to score frequently.
The play of the game, the one that swung the momentum a complete 180 degrees, was Kimbrell’s 73-yard kick return to open the second half. Within 2:07, Quinton Holden had scored two touchdown runs and Kinnick went ahead to stay 20-18.
“We learned tonight how to win a football game,” coach Dan Joley said of a Kinnick team that had combined to win three games the last two seasons but won its opener for the first time in awhile and scored the most points in one game it had scored since beating Zama 45-31 on Oct. 24, 2008.
They talked about starting a “winning tradition” in the mold of Kinnick’s run of four straight Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools titles from 1995-98. You still have Yokota to contend with, but that was a very sound comeback statement by the red and white.
But don’t bury the Trojans just yet.
This is still a very, very good team. I like coach Steven Merrell’s move of putting sophomore James Liker under center. Encarnacion is one heckuva load to try to stop. And Richard Castillo and Mitchell Harrison can be very dangerous runners, especially Harrison, who if he bounces some of those off-tackle rushes outside could run forever and score touchdowns the way Jared Warner used to for Kinnick in ’95 and ’96.
Speaking of very, very good teams, there was Yokota, also in the rain in its Friday home opener, looking very much like Panthers teams of the past, with Morgan Breazell rushing 19 times for 184 yards and four touchdowns and Yokota’s defense clamping down on Robert D. Edgren for a 34-0 victory.
A super start for the Panthers, who didn’t pass the ball once and got a combined 403 yards rushing from seven running backs. Breazell combined with freshman Tre Bailey for 132 yards on seven returns.
The one thing I don’t like, and most coaches probably don’t, either, about games played in the rain is how slippery the surface becomes and how tricky ballhandling becomes. As good as Yokota is, the Panthers coughed up two fumbles in the first quarter and four for the game. Spotters totaled 18 fumbles in the Yokota-Edgren game; by my count, there were 17 fumbles in the Kinnick-Zama game.
You can’t really gauge how efficient your team is when it fumbles that much. Fumbles tend to grind offenses to a halt and you can never truly establish momentum when that happens.
Looking ahead to next Friday – again depending on the weather; it’s supposed to be wet and windy – I’d say the Kinnick-Yokota game will be a fair litmus test for each. Can Kinnick keep up its momentum? Or will Yokota prove once more to be the stone wall standing between the Red Devils and prominence?
And what of Zama, as it heads to Edgren for a Friday showdown. Can the Trojans recover from such a big second-half letdown? Or will the Eagles take that slap in the face with a wet squirrel at Yokota and find themselves?
Published: August 27, 2011
To address the rumourama (two mongers, no waiting) regarding Marine Corps Far East Regional sports tournaments and their future: A note came in from Marine Corps sports head honcho Chuck Rose, which illuminates on the subject.
Due to budget cuts, Headquarters Marine Corps has shifted funds previously used to fund Far East regionals into other aspects of the program, to include inviting more Marines to sports tryout camps and lengthening their duration, Rose said. “This will allow us to bring in more athletes … evaluate them and then select the best of the best” to compete on All-Marine and All-Armed Forces teams.
Each region is perfectly free to continue conducting regional tournaments. However, it is up to local-area athletics directors such as Andrew Porche at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and Ceabert Griffith at Marine Corps Bases Japan to continue running the regionals.
And like all the other services, the Marine Corps will now select its tryout camp prospects by resume. “All our ADs will need to become more aware of the sports talent on their bases” as a result of the change. All applications for tryout camps must go through local ADs, Rose said. “You will then be required to put your educated thoughts and comments on each application before it’s forwarded” to Marine Corps headquarters.
Air Force switched from the regional tournament to resume process in 1992, Army in 1972 and the Navy around the same time as Army.
"This is not a decision I have taken lightly," Rose said. But in the face of budget constraints, "I believe this decision is necessary to try to keep our All-Marine sports programs at the highest level possible. It also brings all our ADs into the mix on who should go or not go" to tryout camps.
Published: August 27, 2011
For the third straight summer, Kyle Rhodus, Yokosuka Naval Base’s longtime athletics director, will engage in a monster bicycle tour from Tokyo to Sasebo Naval Base, in an effort to raise funds in the never-ending battle against cancer and in support of LIVESTRONG and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
The first Tour de Sasebo was staged to benefit Rhodus’ friend and teammate Gisela “Kelly” Bell, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2009; she is now cancer free and is one of the top age group triathletes in California.
Rhodus hit the megatrail again last summer, this time to benefit his friend James Jackson, who succumbed to cancer soon after Tour de Sasebo II ended.
This coming Tuesday, Rhodus and friends Brent Grubb and Lee Leach along with a support vehicle will journey at least 150 miles per day with little more than maps, changes of clothes and their bicycles. This tour is registered with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, and all money donated will go to LAG in support of cancer research and awareness. Their goal is $5,000.
Find and friend Kyle Rhodus on Facebook and follow his adventures there, and by clicking here.
Published: August 27, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer continues to wring himself out from Friday’s rainy Japan football openers and prepares for another jaunt to Korea:
-- Good to get together with the athletics directors and administrators at Monday’s Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference pre-school year meeting at Seoul Foreign. Best of luck to Lori Rogers of Seoul American, Ken Walter of Daegu American, Seoul International’s Ivan Atanaskovic and Taejon Christian International’s Paul Rader as they assume athletics director status at their schools, Rogers serving as co-AD with Don Hedgpath.
-- Is there something about being an American that automatically makes it mandatory for you to wear the label “sucker” as you exit an airport or come within 100 meters of an American base? If I had a nickel for every time some seedy character grabs me by the arm and says “You want taxi?” as I leave the arrivals terminal, or for the panhandler who thinks “Hello? How are you?” is going to get him through the night at my expense a stone’s throw from the base gate … well, I’d not have to work a day in my life. Ever.
-- For the 800th time, what in the world are airlines – ANY airline – doing with stainless steel dining knives on board their aircraft? Did we not learn a thing from Sept. 11, 2001 and scads more terrorist attacks over the years?
-- If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ve had enough railroad station sandwiches to last me at least the next year.
-- Traveling first-class or in green cars on railroads in Japan and Korea – worth every extra penny you pay. Far more leg room, seats recline better and it’s much easier to sleep. Worth 3,240 more yen in Japan, about 12,000 more won in Korea.
-- Would somebody explain to me, though … is there a reason why seat 13-D in car No. 9 of the Hayate bullet train contains a seat belt … and no other seats on the whole train do?
-- T-money cards in Korea and PASMO cards in Japan – still the best way to avoid the queues at the ticket kiosks. Slide them over the IC reader, and presto! You’re in.
-- Any particular reason it’s been so bloody COLD and RAINY everywhere I’ve been? Must have boxed up and brought the sub-winter package from Okinawa instead of the tranquil tropical tableau, by which I exited on Aug. 19.
-- After 30 years of planning and baby steps toward accomplishing the goal, it looks as if the logjam at the Yokohama-Machida interchange of the Tomei Expressway southwest of Tokyo might be broken. They’ve been slowly working on an overpass that would clear up a great deal of traffic traversing Route 16 near its intersection with Route 246 near Exit 4 of the Tomei.
-- Charlie’s Angels, coming AFN this fall? Clearly, TV producers are starting to run out of ideas for new programs. Um, hello? Nothing can beat the original, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson and the late, great Farrah Fawcett and the unseen voice of Charlie, John Forsythe. There’s a reason they made that series back in the 1970s – so you don’t have to. It’s called originality; look into it.
-- AFN Legacy, a note for you as well: “I Was Made For Loving You” by KISS is NOT classified as a classic hard rock song. Classic disco, yes. Classic song, yes. Not classic hard rock.
-- MAX FM. Good call, AFRTS.
Published: August 25, 2011
No question, Nile C. Kinnick’s high school football team has enough skills-positions players to stock the entire league, led by holdover senior Dustin Kimbrell and junior transfer Akish Davis, North Carolina products each. But the line? That’s the $50 million question facing the Red Devils. Can they handle opponents with their lack of experience and size? Click here to find out.
Published: August 25, 2011
For the first time since 2008, Zama American’s football team will take the field without two-way star Michael Spencer, he of 2,276 yards and 23 touchdowns the last two years. A core of returners from Zama’s DODDS Japan and Far East Division I title team of 2009 and D-II runner-up team of 2010 hope to fill those shoes, led by Andre Encarnacion. But will it be enough? Click here to find out.
Published: August 25, 2011
For two years, Robert D. Edgren’s senior core of James Bowman, Sean Gammel, Keaton Lewis, Matt Bernal and Spencer Robison have suffered silently as Michael Spencer and Zama American dominated Japan’s Division II football scene. Now, Spencer is gone and the Eagles hope it means a turnaround. Can the leadership core do it? Or will youth and lack of depth gum up things? Click here to find out.
Published: August 25, 2011
The last time Yokota High School’s football team’s front five on offense weighed 205 pounds or more, the Panthers were en route to their second straight Rising Sun Bowl title and senior Darren Taylor ran for a then-Japan record 1,802 yards. Can this team duplicate the success of 2001 by winning its first Far East Division I football title? Or will an injury or three derail the works? Click here to find out.
Published: August 25, 2011
Two forfeits marked the first week of the Pacific high school football season, while Guam High made like the Panthers of 2010 with an easy victory over John F. Kennedy.
Now, Japan gets into the mix with its two season-opening games on Friday, followed by a full slate of Guam games on Saturday.
And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go:
Week 2 outlook
Friday, Aug. 26
Robert D. Edgren at Yokota, 7 p.m. – Eagles’ corps of five senior leaders want to make some noise to begin the season, but can they handle the Panthers’ large, veteran interior? … Panthers 22, Eagles 8.
Nile C. Kinnick at Zama American, 7:30 p.m. – Red Devils’ flashy senior back Dustin Kimbrell vs. Trojans’ Andre “Tank” Encarnacion. Give it to smaller, quicker Kinnick, in a close one. … Red Devils 14, Trojans 13.
Saturday, Aug. 27
Okkodo at John F. Kennedy, 10 a.m. – Islanders hope to rebound from Week 1 thrashing; Bulldogs will have none of it. … Bulldogs 16, Islanders 13.
George Washington at Southern, 3 p.m. – Geckos begin the road back. Mission: Get the Bamboo Bowl title back from Guam High. … Geckos 19, Dolphins 7.
Simon Sanchez at Guam High, 7 p.m. – First night home game for the Panthers, who are “beside themselves,” coach Jacob Dowdell said, about Saturday Night Lights. … Panthers 18, Sharks 11.
Last week – 3-0, 1.000.
Think these are full of hooey? Shout it out! Be true to your school, but remember: You've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)
Published: August 21, 2011
With apologies to Keith Urban, natch.
So, we all thought that with the likes of Jayson Brunson and Devon Jacobs now but distant memories, that Guam High’s chances of repeating as Interscholastic Football League champions were akin to those of a snowball set loose on Orchard Road in Singapore at high noon.
Forget that noise.
And remember this word: Bookends.
The descriptor that pretty much fits senior defensive ends Nyjee Smith and Theatris Eaton, whom coach Jacob Dowdell said “set the tone” for a dominating defensive performance that powered the Panthers to a 42-0 triumph over John F. Kennedy.
Throw in interceptions by Matt Eaton and Javon Jacobs. And a fumble-recovery touchdown by Daniel Morta.
They haven’t yet played traditional island powers Father Duenas Memorial and George Washington, whom the Panthers victimized in last year’s Bamboo Bowl 7-6 for the school’s first island football title. But that defensive performance would give me pause if I’m the Friars’ and Geckos’ coaching staffs.
Plus, the two-headed quarterback that is Sean Sweet and T.J. Jenkins. The former went 4-for-8 for 106 yards and a touchdown and ran for 40 yards and two scores on five carries. And Jenkins, whom Dowdell calls his running quarterback, demonstrated why with 68 yards and a touchdown on two carries.
To me, that says balance.
But it will take doing this consistently, and against the aforementioned IFL beasts, before we can rate Guam High in the same class or better than the team last year.
Sidebar: Apologies to Guam High’s David John Cruz, whom I had graduating but very much remains in the blue and gold.
Second sidebar: It may have been a one-sided loss for the Islanders, but they have very much to celebrate: John F. Kennedy’s rebuilt campus in Upper Tumon, a stone’s throw from Won Pat International Airport and Micronesia Mall, is set to open on Aug. 29. Very glad to see it, too. I’m not saying that all those signs and banners ringing the fence of the old campus, pleading to “give us our school back!” didn’t have everything to do with it, but there is something to be said for power of the people – and their voice. It took awhile, but an apparent happy ending for all concerned.
Published: August 21, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer closes the book on the 12th U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League season and chills at the new ANA Lounge at Haneda Airport before beginning the long summer high school walk-through:
Now, it can be told, with emphasis and finality: No more is the USFJ-AFL championship Torii Bowl game the sole province of the host team.
It sure looked as if it would remain that way in the first half of Saturday’s 12th Torii Bowl, in which North Division champion and host Misawa held a commanding 20-2 lead just seconds into the second quarter. Already Ornauer was entertaining thoughts of a Jets mercy-rule killing of the visiting Foster Bulldogs, and also that the North Division just might have been far stronger than its South Division counterparts.
Could Wylie Flowers of Foster’s opportunistic secondary have been a mind-reader and sat there going, “No way, Ornauer. The first half, we saw why Misawa won the North title; the second half, we’re going to remind you why Foster won the South title.”
Foster’s defense forces three second-half turnovers, interceptions by Ian Williams and Flower and a fumble recovery by Flowers, check. Bulldogs offense converts them to 22 unanswered points, two touchdown runs and a TD pass by quarterback James Sanford, check. The result: 24-20 victory over Misawa, check.
Foster’s second Torii Bowl title in three years. Only the second time a South team has won the Torii Bowl (keeping in mind, there was no South Division from 2004-08). Breaks a run in which Misawa, first as the Marauders in 2005, then the Jets in 2008, had won the Torii Bowl every three years and was looking to extend that success.
Maybe next time, I should quit overthinking after barely one period is complete and remember that USFJ-AFL games are played over 60 minutes, not 15:53, the span in which Misawa poured 20 points onto the scoreboard and outgained Foster 121-109.
From that point, checkmate. Misawa managed just 65 yards the rest of the way, while Sanford and Sons lit up the Jets defense to the tune of 285 yards.
And this without the Bulldogs’ best receiver, Roger Veal, in the second half. And this despite Foster being penalized 17 times for 141 yards.
Misawa was flagged nine times for 85 yards, but most of those came in clutch second-half moments that kept Foster’s three touchdown drives alive.
Those included a facemask penalty on third-and-8 at the Misawa 41, when it appeared the Jets had Sanford stopped short of a first down. That followed Flowers’ fumble recovery. It led to Sanford’s second TD run, a 5-yard bootleg that made it 24-20 with 13:44 left.
On Foster’s first touchdown drive, set up by Rohan Paul’s fumble recovery, the Jets were flagged for a personal foul that put the ball on Misawa’s 5-yard line; Sanford finished that drive with a 1-yard sneak.
And it all started so nicely for the Jets, who from the jump took the early edge, with Douglas Brown connecting with Rich Gennie on an 80-yard touchdown pass on the game’s FIRST play.
It was one of just two completions by Brown on the evening. He led the Jets with 102 yards total offense. Daron Quimby ran 21 yards for a score and finished with 49 net yards on six carries; he had 51 on three carries in the first half. The Jets also did it on defense, when Michael Rohde stepped in front of a Sanford screen pass and rambled 38 yards for a touchdown.
It’s not like the Jets didn’t have their chances. They forced four takeaways and recorded three sacks. It’s just the Bulldogs did more with theirs when it mattered.
Even the Jets’ standby trick play backfired. On the game’s final series, Misawa’s players as one began yelling “TOO MANY! TOO MANY!” as if to tell the huddle that they had one too many players on the field.
As the play is diagrammed, one receiver runs to the sideline as if he were the 12th man on the field when in reality there’s supposed to be 11. The rest of the offense lines up, snaps the ball just as the receiver reaches the sideline, then the receiver takes off on a flag pattern, most times to an area vacated by the secondary, which assumed the receiver was off the field.
Turns out, the umpire was counting the number of Jets players leaving the huddle, including the receiver, and guess what?
Misawa mistakenly broke the huddle with 12 players. Loss of five yards, first-and-15 from Misawa’s 42. Two deep throws fell incomplete and the game was over.
If there was an offensive MVP in the game, it would go Sanford, who cranked out 320 yards of total offense and accounted for all three touchdowns.
If there was an overall MVP, it has to go to Flowers, who not only finished atop the league charts with six interceptions, but also caught four passes for 74 yards, three of them clutch third-down completions for first downs.
So, just how does a team go about winning the Torii Bowl on the road when none had ever done so before?
Planning, planning and planning, in no particular order.
First of all, recognize the fact that your players are hired to defend the country, not play football, and that their priority – as well as the rest of the military – is to prepare for war. Once that obstacle is understood, you find reasons to do things instead of caving into excuses not to do them, keep looking for workarounds and step outside the box if necessary to do the unconventional.
Second, behave as if you KNOW you’re going to win the division title and you have to plan to travel as if you will. WELL in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to find ways there, be it commercially, Space-A aboard Air Mobility Command aircraft, or the least expensive and relatively the most reliable way, via Navy Air Logistics Office (NALO) flights.
No way are any of those flights dedicated to carrying just football players and equipment; NALO flights tend to be scheduled when there’s men and materiel to be moved in support of the mission. But … if by coincidence a NALO mission is heading, say, from Kadena Air Base to Misawa Air Base with 25 empty seats, which goes to Foster’s football team because they filled out the requests long in advance, the two marry up, the mission is done and the Bulldogs get to travel.
Third, if you’re the coach, keep CONSTANT tabs on those players who can and cannot travel, and update your roster, and your flight’s manifest via e-mail or phone, accordingly.
Fourth, get in touch with the presumed host coaches at all three North Division sites. What do you have in the way of rooms, either at billeting or, in the worst case, in an empty hangar or the high school gym, since school is out for the summer? Turns out, Navy Gateway Inns and Suites’ Anchor Inn at Misawa had rooms available for the players, provided they doubled up on spare cots.
Fifth, try to get there early, so you can at least do a walk-through practice on the field on which you’re going to play.
Sixth, talk with the referees prior to the game at length, especially about any trick plays that you might have up your sleeve. Explain to the referees how they work, and see if the crew might flag those plays differently than your crew back home (in theory, that’s not supposed to happen, but we all know it does).
Seven, be gracious after the game, win or lose. One of the hallmarks of USFJ-AFL games is the gathering of players on both teams at the 50-yard line at game’s end, bowing heads in gratitude to the Maker, then showering up and retiring to the 12-ounce curl exercise room to expand and adorn the collective adventure they just enjoyed.
And eight, enjoy. That’s what sports is about. J
Published: August 20, 2011
Besides the playoff games scheduled for October and November, here are Ornauer’s top 10 high school football games to watch during the 2011 season:
-- Sept. 2, Yokota at Nile C. Kinnick, 7 p.m. – Annual litmus test to see if Yokota is still its dominant self, or if its opposition is taking steps toward narrowing the gap.
-- Sept. 3, Guam High at George Washington, 7 p.m. – Terrific Labor Day Saturday matchup of defending Interscholastic Football League champion Guam High visiting the team with the most IFL titles in league history.
-- Sept. 3, Kadena at Seoul American, 6 p.m. – Critical test for defending Far East Division I champion Panthers, who take the field for the first time in three years without Speed, Inc. backs Shariff Coleman and Thomas McDonald.
-- Sept. 9, Kadena at Kubasaki, 6 p.m. – See Sept. 2, and substitute Kadena for Yokota and Kubasaki for Kinnick.
-- Sept. 16, American School In Japan at Yokota, 7 p.m. – One of the oldest rivalries in the Pacific, pitting the last two Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools champions.
-- Sept. 17, Daegu American at Kadena, 6 p.m. – For a second straight year, the defending Far East Divisions II and I champions hook up, this time on Okinawa.
-- Sept. 17, Guam High vs. Father Duenas Memorial at George Washington High School, 7 p.m. – Could be the last obstacle to the Panthers’ repeating their island title … or it may bury their chances for good.
-- Sept. 24, Osan American at Zama American, 6 p.m. – An historic first meeting between a Cougars program seeking its first Far East Division II title-game berth since 2008, Trojans trying for their second D-II title in three years.
-- Oct. 15, Kadena at Singapore Falcons, 3 p.m. – Historically, at least until last season, Kadena has had trouble with long-haul travel games. The Panthers won last year at Daegu American and Zama American; let’s see if the trend continues here.
-- Oct. 21, Seoul American at Daegu American, 6 p.m. – Second of two regular-season meetings, one which might well determine if the Warriors make it three straight DODDS Korea titles, a school first.
Did I miss any? Think you have a game that’s more important than this list? Shout it out! Be true to your school, and remember: You’ve entered THE “No-Hate Zone.”
Published: August 19, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer starts to wonder not what if, but what’s next:
-- Tokyo must be trying to tell me something. The last time I traveled north to the world’s most exciting city was … March 11, or Black Friday, as I call it.
-- Now, this. Biblical thunderstorms which pounded the Tokyo area at mid-day Friday delayed scores of inbound and outbound flights at Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita International Airports, including ANA Flight 124 out of Naha going to Haneda (my commuter flight).
-- Puts me two hours behind heading into my latest travel adventure … *exaggerated deep breath here* … Aug. 19-20, Misawa; Aug. 21, Seoul; Aug. 22-23, Misawa; Aug. 24, Yokota and Zama; Aug. 25-26, Yokosuka; Aug. 28-31, Seoul, Osan and Taegu; Sept. 1, Tokyo; Sept. 2-3, Yokosuka; Sept. 4-5, Yokota; Sept. 6, back home again on Okinawa.
-- But that’s just the beginning. About an hour before 124 landed at Haneda, a 6.8-preliminary magnitude earthquake rocked Fukushima and well beyond, disrupting or cancelling Shinkansen service on several lines.
-- Yamagata line and the Tokaido line between Mishima and Shizuoka, stopped cold.
-- Then, there were the delays on the Tohoku line, which must be getting very used to that sort of thing since March 11. The good folk at JR East were able to book me on an earlier train, which, in fact, left around the same time my original train left, and got me to Misawa a few minutes earlier. But they couldn’t promise me exactly when the train could leave, so upstairs I went and waited, along with hundreds of others, waiting and hoping the train would depart.
-- Sitting on the tarmac at Naha, or sitting on any tarmac for any length of time for any reason, is never fun. Kudos to the captain of ANA Flight 124 for being up front and honest about the reasons for our delay, instead of the standard, “The flight is being delayed due to weather conditions.” He was frank and honest in the weather’s appraisal and updated departure times, and apologized repeatedly for the character of the delay.
-- A tip of the hat to the cabin crew, which did its best to take care of us. Plenty of water, candy mints and other sundries for the adults, and toys and swag for the kiddles.
-- As for what Tokyo is trying to tell me … it’s that Mother Nature is not a happy camper these days.
-- Weather on Okinawa was beautiful and pristine at takeoff, far from the violence that punctuated the weather a couple of weeks before when Typhoon Muifa stopped by.
-- As we flew further and further north, the view from the left side of the cabin of the thunderclouds that assaulted the Tokyo area was spectacular. The closer they got, the more awesome they looked. And the more I realized landing was going to be an adventure.
-- Again, kudos to the flight crew for threading the aircraft’s needle through some of the most vicious clouds it’s ever been my displeasure to fly through. I’m reminded of some thunderclouds I traversed on an Eastern flight from Montgomery to Atlanta on a rather nasty September afternoon in 1975. Lurid and angry the clouds were on both occasions.
-- Once on the ground, the effects of the delays on inbound and outbound flights were apparent. Arrival and departure terminals were jam-packed with passengers waiting for bags, queuing outside for buses jammed to the gills with those soon to be delayed by weather-induced traffic jams, and still others waiting to find out when their outbound flights would depart.
-- I’m told that the rain was so abundant, several were looking around to see if Noah and the Ark would soon make an appearance.
-- And the earthquakes and aftershocks remain so abundant ... I'm wondering how close we are to a Biblical temblor ...
-- Sidebar to this, related to March 11: A quick look around the city showed a Tokyo that’s pretty much gotten back to normal since the giant quake and tsunami, but still somewhat in the throes of energy conservation. I would suggest to those office buildings that don’t really need them, to turn out the banks of fluorescent lights in your offices after you leave; that, clearly, has not changed.
-- More crowds and queues awaited me at Tokyo Station, where similar “where” and “when” concerns washed over the masses. Lines of those curious about whether they could change their tickets or when trains might leave serpentined throughout the complex.
-- One Japanese man, clearly out of character for a culture known for its courtly, subdued manner, verbally lashed out at the woman behind the ticket counter. Clearly upset at the situation, rather than assessing blame, but demonstrative enough to make heads turn from as far as 50 feet away.
-- After about a 20-minute wait, the same woman was apologetic, but frank when she told me she could change my ticket to an earlier train, but wasn’t sure when – or if – the train would depart.
-- Eatery of the day: Eki Bento (or station box lunch) still purveys the best sammiches you’ll ever find at any train station in the Tokyo area, or anywhere else in Japan. Kobeya, one of Tokyo’s most refined bakeries, must have a contract with that outfit; they provide a whole variety of sammiches on different types of bread which are quite tasty and don’t really look like a lunch box. Egg and tomato, tuna and lettuce, ham and potato salad, cheese and cabbage on French bread.
-- As one of my Facebook friends posted the other day, “My therapist told me the fastest way to inner peace is to finish what you start." So, I bought two of those sandwich packs, parked myself about 20 meters from the masses queuing for train information, and wolfed them down. I felt better right away.
-- The Tohoku Shinkansen’s Hayate super express now goes all the way to Shin Aomori, a good half-hour north of Misawa Air Base. But a trip that used to take just under three hours from Tokyo to Hachinohe station, just south of Misawa, now takes about a half-hour longer, because of the after-effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Seems to me as if the line still needs recovery time.
-- Specifically, between Koriyama and Ichinoseki, each about a half hour south and north of Sendai, hardest hit by the earthquake. The line was shut down for about a month after the earthquake, and reopened with limited service and a limited schedule after that. And the trains clearly slow between those two locations, which tells me that repairs are still not completely done, and JR East might could have served the populace better by keeping the line shut down for another month or six weeks to make more complete repairs and try to reopen with a full schedule at full speed.
-- The adventure continues Saturday evening with Misawa hosting Foster in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League’s Torii Bowl at 6:30 p.m. That’s preceded by Guam High hosting John F. Kennedy in the Guam Interscholastic Football League opener at 3 p.m.
Published: August 19, 2011
Devon Jacobs, David John Cruz and the crew that brought home Guam High’s first island football championship have departed, leaving behind a small handful of holdovers to keep the run of success going. Will new coach Jacob Dowdell, new quarterback Sean Sweet and bookend defensive ends Theatris Eaton and Nijee Smith keep the run going, or will the pressure to repeat be too much? Click here to get the lowdown on the team, here to view Guam High by the numbers and here to view the schedule.
Published: August 19, 2011
All the Pacific high school football schedules and some schedules of the rest of the fall-sports calendar are being posted at Stripes.com as we receive them. Click here for Japan football, here for Okinawa football, here for Korea’s complete schedule and here for all of Guam’s except cross country. We’ll post the rest as we get ’em .
Published: August 16, 2011
Hope everybody's had a restful summer, hope everybody's batteries are recharged and we're all ready to charge headlong into what should shape up to be a marvelous fall season of DODDS Pacific athletics.
Practices are well underway from Misawa to Mangilao, classes begin Aug. 29 and the first football games are on tap THIS Friday and Saturday on Guam, the earliest start ever! Boy, did time zoom by quickly.
Before we get started, may I post a gentle reminder, and again, with repeated apologies to FOX News commentator Bill O'Reilly's signature line:
Caution: You are about to enter THE "No-Hate Zone."
It's perfectly permissible, even encouraged, to jump on here and voice your feelings, strong and not so strong, about your team, your school, your peepz, but ...
Please, remember who we're discussing. These aren't professional or collegiate athletes embroiled in their various dramas and controversies -- we're talking young, impressionable high school athletes in their quest to make their high school experience as fruitful and rewarding as possible.
When you post, please keep on topic and stick with the issues, and avoid talking personalities. Especially during football season, which sets the tone for the entire school year, emotions are at their highest and school pride flies highest.
Let's just remember what we're here for. Have fun. And remember, you've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)
Published: August 16, 2011
Land o' Goshen, the seasons keep starting earlier and earlier every year!
So, too, will Ornauer begin the weekly process of putting his head on the proverbial chopping block, guessing correctly the outcome of high school football games the next 14 weeks.
And heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere we go:
Week 1 outlook
Friday, Aug. 19
Simon Sanchez vs. Father Duenas at George Washington High School, Mangilao, 7 p.m. – Two teams in the middle of last season’s pack headed in opposite directions, the Sharks in rebuilding mode and the Friars determined to return to prominence. … Friars 16, Sharks 9.
Saturday, Aug. 20
John F. Kennedy at Guam High, 3 p.m. – They won’t be as dominant as last year’s Panthers, what with many of their stars gone, but others such as new quarterback Sean Sweet will rise up to take their place. … Panthers 20, Islanders 8.
Okkodo at Southern, 3 p.m. – Bulldogs starting to feel their oats; Dolphins still trying just to tread water. … Bulldogs 14, Dolphins 6. Last season – 61-11, .847.
Think these are full of hooey? Shout it out! Be true to your school, but remember: You've entered THE "No-Hate Zone." :)
Published: August 15, 2011
NOTE: The Torii Bowl, the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League championship game, will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Robert D. Edgren High School’s Eagles Field.
If defense wins championships, you won’t find a better pair to square off in Saturday’s U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title Torii Bowl game than South Division champion Foster and North champion Misawa.
For Kevin Lambert of the Torii Bowl host Jets and Jovon Richards of the visiting Bulldogs stood as poster-child examples of how defenses tend to throw monkey wrenches into the best well-oiled offensive machines that any team can bring to the table.
Lambert recorded three quarterback sacks for a Jets defense that also racked up a safety. And for the first time in three meetings this season, Misawa didn’t have to rally to beat now-dethroned league champion Yokota, topping the Warriors 21-14 in Saturday’s North title game at Misawa’s Hillside Stadium.
“He played out of his mind today, played the best game I’ve ever seen a defensive player play,” coach Ben Mathe said of Lambert.
The Jets also got their fair share of offense, particularly from quarterback Douglas Brown, who passed for two touchdowns and ran for another.
But it was the defense that clamped down on Yokota and quarterback Ryan Jones, who was held to one touchdown pass; Frederick Guild’s 55-yard interception return accounted for Yokota’s other points.
And as addressed earlier this season in this space, Misawa is back in the Torii Bowl as it’s been every three years since winning the 2005 title game 30-21 over Yokota as the Misawa Marauders. The Jets also beat Yokosuka 12-6 in the 2008 Torii Bowl, also at Misawa.
So, one pattern continues to be followed. Just a question now of whether something that’s been as regular as tax deadlines in mid-April will also hold true – the host team has never failed to win the Torii Bowl, every year since the USFJ-AFL took on its current form in 2000.
Yokosuka won the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007 Torii Bowls, each at home. Misawa did it in 2005 and 2008, Foster in 2009 – the only time the league’s traveling trophy ever went to a South Division team – and Yokota a season ago. The Torii Bowl was not played in 2001 due to 9/11 and in 2003, when duty commitments and scheduling conflicts precluded Kadena and Yokosuka from meeting for the title – a disagreement that very nearly led to the destruction of the league.
The closest any visiting team came to winning? Joint Task Force last year, which got huge touchdown returns from defensive back/kick returner Kent Onuoha, who almost singlehandedly kept the Wolfpack in the contest before the Warriors prevailed 26-23 at Yokota High School’s Bonk Field.
If Foster is to disrupt that pattern, it might come down to its defense, which held JTF to 114 yards and recorded five takeaways in Saturday’s 26-6 victory over the Wolfpack in the South Division title game at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium.
Among those five takeaways? Yep, three interceptions, giving the Bulldogs a league-high 16 in five games this season. Richards had two and Wylie Flowers had the other, giving Flowers a league-high five for the season.
Flowers’ pickoff sealed the deal on the contest. Earlier, Richards returned an interception 33 yards for a touchdown, then set up another score with his second pickoff plus a 25-yard return.
There is perhaps not a bigger momentum swinger than such plays. It puts new spark in the team that takes the ball away … and reduces the body language of the team giving the ball away into mulch.
“Don’t throw it to the Bulldogs,” Richards said, repeating a mantra that many on Foster have uttered all season long, and with good reason.
As Brown provided the fireworks and lit the match for the Jets offensively, so, too, has quarterback James Sanford been the guy setting the offensive tone for the Bulldogs. He went 11-for-22 for 158 yards through the air, and rushed nine times for 30 yards.
Among Sanford’s completions were touchdown strikes of 10 yards to Ian Williams and 7 yards to … that guy wearing No. 86, whom I correctly predicted in this space a couple of months ago would return to the Bulldogs’ receiver corps. He had four catches for 47 yards.
And Moore’s return to the lineup couldn’t have been timed better – the Bulldogs’ primary receiver threat, second year-man Roger Veal, went down with a pulled hamstring on the game’s first series; hard to say if he’ll be able to suit up for the Bulldogs on Saturday at Misawa.
Sidebar to this: A huge shout-out to Robert D. Edgren High School administration and athletics director Jim Burgeson for allowing the Torii Bowl to be played under the lights on Eagles Field. Thanks. J
Sidebar to this: To the commands for which the Bulldogs players work, please see your way clear to letting as many red-and-gold bearers head north to Misawa as possible. It's only for two days. The more they have there, the better their chances of making Saturday’s Torii Bowl the competitive spectacle it should be. And who knows? If they defy the odds and overturn 11 years of home advantage, they could make you proud.
Published: August 15, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer gets set to cut in the high school sports hyperdrive and fully recompress for the next nine months:
So, what does an All-Marine softball player do when he’s batting 7-for-32 for the week-long Far East Regional Softball Tournament? And what does his team do when it enters the double-elimination playoffs having lost its last two pool-play games and looking utterly worked?
The All-Marine, Francisco Poo, bides his time, provides leadership and mentoring the younger players, never loses hope and when the opportunity comes and he finds his stroke, he just flat kills it, to the tune of batting 4-for-4 with two triples and two RBIs.
And the team, 3rd Marine Logistics Group, refinds itself, rediscovers what it took to win the tournament title a year ago and turns on the jets at just the right time.
With Poo – battling a balky knee – providing plenty of knock out of the No. 3 hole and leadoff batter Derrick Battle raking consistently, 3rd MLG ran the table in double-elimination play, surviving a late rally in Friday’s championship game by Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler and wins its second straight title 11-9.
Poo, we all knew about, and he’s deservedly headed back to the All-Marine tryout camp despite his problems earlier in the week. But Battle? If this guy can avert the same duty bug that kept a large number of deserving candidates home from camp, he’ll be the starting All-Marine shortstop for years to come. Range, glove, arm, bat and speed. Five-tool player.
Don’t be surprised, either, if any of the other four selected to go to Cherry Point distinguish themselves and make the All-Marine team. Henry Kelcinski can play a solid middle infield. When he’s on, Anthony Hawkins can still rake with the best of ’em . Robert Swierbitowicz is as strong a power hitter as it gets. And Tommy Macias brings a certain fire with him behind the plate and at the bat.
How great it was to see command representation of the first order during Friday’s playoffs, with much of 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s staff out in force.
All other commands represented in the Far East Regional could take a cue from 1st MAW chief of staff Col. Doug Wadsworth, Chaplain (Cmdr.) Terry Gordon, Command Master Chief Petty Officer David Jones, Senior Chief Petty Officer Claude Copeland, Wing Sgt. Maj. Eric Seward and Marine Aircraft Group 36 Sgt. Maj. Mario Marquez. They cheered their charges to the end – a bitter one, I might add, as 1st MAW fell 12-5 to 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force in a knockout bracket game.
And since Base and 1st MAW share the same headquarters building, the six chose to stay around and root for Base to bring down Division, which it did 5-4 despite committing five errors, and hope Base could dethrone 3rd MLG, which didn’t happen.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking moment of all in the tournament came in the seventh inning of Base’s 7-6 nine-inning loss to 3rd MLG in the championship-bracket final earlier Friday.
Base loaded the bases with nobody out and appeared primed to walk off the field with a 5-4 victory, when Hawkins dipped his shoulder and popped up to the infield for the first out. That proved to be the turning point, after which 3rd MLG induced a ground-ball double play and got out of the jam.
Nobody felt worse than Hawkins, repeatedly apologizing to his teammates and assessing himself the lion’s share of the blame.
I know somewhat how that feels, though I was never more than a shot-and-beer company-level player with the 3825th Academic Services Group team at Maxwell Air Force Base in the mid-1970s. Our team once put up a 15-spot, batting twice through the order and even leaving the bases loaded at rally’s end. And who, do you suppose, made all three outs in the inning?
Good ol’ Dave.
Better days are certain to come for Hawkins, who’s as professional a softball hitter as you’ll ever see, who still displays superior range, a great glove and a shotgun arm in left-center field. It takes having a short memory to put such things in the past, but for a stand-up guy like Hawkins, it’s much easier said than done,
Published: August 11, 2011
Whether they are eligible to go to All-Marine tryout camp Aug. 27-Sept. 16 at Cherry Point, N.C., and based entirely on performance in this week's Far East Regional Softball Tournament, this is who I think should be tapped by Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit staff on Okinawa to represent the region:
For complete Day 4 results, Day 5 schedule and photos, click here.
-- Derrick Battle, shortstop, 3rd Marine Logistics Group. Has been on fire at the plate, especially in the double-elimination playoffs. Good range, good glove, great arm, excellent basepath speed.
-- Phillip Eskew, left fielder, Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler. Another five-tool player, shotgun outfield arm, can really stir things up at the leadoff spot; can power and place.
-- Andre Bibbs, catcher, 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force. Solid behind-the-plate presence; can play first base as well. Versatile at the plate; a home-run threat each time he bats.
-- Dan Doyle, left-center fielder, 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force. One of several leadoff batters who’ve distinguished themselves; an all-tool outfielder as well.
-- Stephen Black, left-center fielder, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Still another leadoff batter who’s been raking consistently, good basepath and outfield speed.
-- Justin Barnes, second baseman, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing. Doesn’t look like much, but he hits consistently and can turn a single into a double, a double into a triple, etc.
So many good players with good range and arms, especially in the outfield and at shortstop, just missed the cut here.
Anybody you think I left out? Sound off! Be true to your team, but remember – you’ve entered THE “No-Hate Zone.” J
Published: August 11, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer readies for the big four-way battle between those he correctly predicted would joust for Marine Corps Far East Regional Softball Tournament bragging rights:
To heck with the pool-play standings and scores from the first three days of play in any regional tournament. Once the "real thing" begins, is when we truly separate contenders from pretenders.
Take defending champion 3rd Marine Logistics Group.
They entered Thursday's double-elimination playoffs 2-3, and having lost their last two round-robin games. They appeared to be classic underachievers, with the top two seeds, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing and 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force and No. 3 seed Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler set to duke it out to see who'd inherit the title.
Hold the phone, folks.
3rd MLG is far from ready to relinquish the throne, if Thursday's play was any indicator.
Led by shortstop Derrick Battle, who was on fire Thursday (7-for-8, 3 doubles, 1 triple, 5 RBIs) and Julio Dominguez (5-for-6, 4 RBIs), 3rd MLG first topped Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni 10-3, then upset top seed Wing 22-11, taking advantage of eight Wing errors to get within two victories of a title repeat.
Division wasn't immune to the top-seed upset bug, either, thanks to Base, which thrashed U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester 16-1 in five innings before R.J. Robertson (home run, sacrifice fly, 4 RBIs) and Base scored nine runs in the fourth and fifth innings to stun Division 10-3.
Base and 3rd MLG were set to battle at 3 p.m. Friday for a spot in Friday' evening's championship game(s). Still alive in the knockout bracket were Division and Wing, the more unlikely of the teams expected to have to go the hard route.
So, just who's the favorite now?
As I said in this space yesterday, it's a free-for-all.
And it should be a ton of fun.
Published: August 11, 2011
Yokota Air Base stands at the cusp of a really, really great opportunity should its Warriors football team beat the Misawa Jets in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League North Division title game on Saturday.
Disclaimer: Not to say that it will happen, of course; Misawa ran the North Division, table this season and rallied to beat Yokota in both of their encounters this season and earning host rights to the Torii Bowl championship game on Aug. 20.
If Misawa beats Yokota on Saturday, no muss, no fuss, South Division champion, either Foster or Joint Task Force, must travel to the northern hinterlands to play for the league title.
But should Yokota win Saturday's game, a scheduling conflict may ensue.
You see, Yokota Air Base is scheduled to host its annual Friendship Festival on Aug. 20-21. Command is well aware that the Warriors would be in line to host the Torii Bowl the same weekend, yet has passed the word to its players: "You WILL work the Friendship Festival that weekend."
The Warriors would have no problem pushing the game back a week to Aug. 27. But Foster and JTF would, since they face duty commitments that may take most of their rosters off island for at least two weeks, perhaps longer.
That could conceivably push the Torii Bowl back into late September, when high school football season is well underway and referees are stretched thin covering two Kanto Plain games per weekend.
But there is a way Yokota Base and the Warriors could come up with an arrangement that would be mutually satisfying:
Hold the Torii Bowl during the Friendship Festival at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Yokota High School's Bonk Field.
Could you imagine how big a crowd, Americans and Japanese, you would get when two teams of big, beefy American football players square off with the league's biggest prize on the line?
We're only talking 30 to 35 bodies donning football gear, compared to the 3,000-odd contingent of GIs and hundreds more civilians who remain to work the festival, booths, security, traffic, etc.
There is a precedent for Yokota hosting a football game during the Friendship Festival. Back in 1999, before a joyous crowd of more than 2,000 at the late, lamented Wilkins Park (which they're turning into a parking facility), the then-Yokota Raiders easily handled the Yokohama Harbours, a Japanese team, on an 80- by 40-yard field.
To Col. Otto Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commanding officer, I ask you: Is keeping the Warriors players, assuming they beat Misawa on Saturday, from playing the Torii Bowl on Day 1 of the Friendship Festival, is keeping them out of football uniform really worth sacrificing what could be a centerpiece event of the festival, and throwing the rest of the USFJ-AFL's season into turmoil?
Please keep that in mind. You hold the key to solving all issues in your hands. Please ... make the right choice.
Published: August 11, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer puts away the potential upset headlines involving U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester for another day:
For complete Day 3 results, final pool-play standings, playoff grid and photographs, click here.
Never take your opponent lightly. Never take any opponent lightly. Especially U;S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester during any Marine Corps Far East Regional sports tournament.
Those are the words that any coach worth his salt will tell his charges before taking the field, the court, whatever against the Corpsmen.
They may be a 24-7 operation over at the hospital, working the most odd shifts known to mankind. In no way do I envy the job that coach Claude Copeland must do to keep nine to 10 players available for each game, given the vagaries of duty in that place.
Yet that definitely works in their favor. Only once has a Hospital team ever reached the finals of one of these Far East regionals, basketball two years ago.
The Corpsmen took one set off 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in the now-disbanded Far East Regional Volleyball Tournament in April 2000.
Then there was Hospital's performance in the 2003 Far East Regional Softball Tournament, in which it won two games and lost four others they could have easily won, two in extra innings.
On Wednesday, Hospital appeared primed to pull a major upset of No. 3 playoff seed Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler. The final score was 19-9 base, but that in no way reflected the closeness of the contest.
With coach Lawrence Occomy resting some of his regulars, Hospital jumped to a 3-1 lead after one inning. Four runs in the fourth put the Corpsmen back in front 9-7 -- and btrought an all-call from Occomy. All starters back in the lineup. And quit horsing around; these guys mean business.
Base then scored 12 unanswered runs. But the statement was made. Hospital comes into these tournaments with absolutely nothing to lose.
And they've got some weaponry to at least stay in games. Punch-and-Judy hitters Bradley Wilson and Gilbert Espino don't hit 'em hard ... just hit 'em where they ain't. Ray Bright can rake with the best of 'em. Scott Cyr, who got some blog love here a couple of days ago, is as solid a cleanup hitter as there is in this tournament. Even the senior set, David Jones and Hosea Smith, can bang it.
The shame of it going into Thursday's play was, Copeland wasn't sure if he had enough players to take the field for the 4:15 p.m. double-elimination playoff contest against -- yep -- Base. Part of the vagaries of duty at the hospital: Mission does come first, and they're stretched further thin than anybody.
Anybody notice defending champion 3rd Marine Logistics Group taking a page from ye olde skool softball? From time to time, they'll have Dewon Guillory, normally a left- or right-center fielder, playing a quasi-rover position that closely resembles the "short fielder" of softball's 1970s days.That sort of strategy will work against "hit 'em where they ain't"-type batters. Since the game has become so much about power and gap hitting, the short fielder's days pretty much became numbered in the late 1970s entering the 1980s. But occasionally, there is room for the rover outfielder, as Guillory has demonstrated.
Even coaches are getting into the swing of wearing outsized headgear. Keith Applegate of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni seems to prefer the old "Jungle Jim"-style pith helmet, authorised with tropical gear that one might see in old black-and-white movies such as South Pacific or From Here to Eternity.
But unlike his shortstop Anthony Baker, he's not wearing his hat to protect himself from the heat and sun.
"I am down here for the adventure, and I want them to follow me through the jungle, the heat and to victory on Okinawa," said Applegate, a 42-year-old Navy commander, a native of Columbia, Mo., and proud graduate of my father's alma mater, University of Missouri (class of 1992), who goes by "Apples." "If it serves as motivation for them, then that's all I can ask."
Occomy did have other things on his mind during this week's Far East Regionals -- he became a grandfather on Tuesday, when his 25-year-old son Ladarius became the father of a baby girl named Aaliyah. Ladarius attended Zama American High School and played football for the Trojans in the early 2000s, on some teams that included the likes of quarterbacks Chris Drake and Kelvin Lewis (now with Kadena's military team), running back Anthony Salas, receiver Brandon Fulford, lineman Jay Fabunan and perhaps one of the most voracious defensive ends in Japan football history, Marcello Evans. Anyway, congrats to both Ladarius and proud grandpa Larry. :)
Published: August 11, 2011
You could set your watch to it. Every year, when the U.S. Forces Japan football season would end, Yokosuka Seahawks linebacker Mike Favors would invariably find me on the sideline and say:
"Well, this is it, Dave. I'm haning up my spikes for good."
To which I'd roll my eyes and say: "Sure, Mike. Catch you next season."
Inevitable it was, that after the Seahawks played their first game the next season, I'd get a voice mail from Favors saying: "Just want to let you know, Dave ... I'm on my way out of retirement."
Which goes to show you, when a military athlete retires, it's simply a stage-setter for his un-retirement. And leads me to predict when the likes of Favors and others will come out of retirement, as I did a certain Foster wide receiver at the start of this season.
Which happened just this morning, when Ornauer got the following e-mail in from Corey Moore, former and soon-to-be Bulldogs wide receiver who retired after last season to become the team's "general manager:"
*STRIPES BREAKING NEWS*
Looks like Mr. Ornauer's prediction at the beginning of the season will be upheld!!!!!
#86 just signed a 10day contract w/the Foster Bulldogs!!!!! Amount of contract unknown!!!!! More to follow... :o)
Sort of reads like a tweet, I guess.
Stay tuned. Foster plays defending league runner-up Joint Task Force on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Kubasaki High School's Mike Petty Stadium. We'll see what # 86 brings to the table.
Published: August 10, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer prepares for the last day of that wild, wacky race known as pool play in the 2011 Marine Corps Far East Regional Softball Tournament:
For a complete look at Day 2 results and photographs, click here.
Normally, you see one or two teams that stand out above the crowd and carry the label (or burden) of "team to beat" during a Far East Regional Softball Tournament.
Apparently, not this year, not after two days of pool play in which four teams came away with one defeat and stood a combined half-game apart with one day of round-robin games left.
For the moment, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing is on top at 3-1, followed by Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler, 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force and defending champion 3rd Marine Logistics Group, each at 2-1.
Each of those teams stands an excellent shot at one of the top two seeds, and the first-round playoff bye -- and evening start time in Thursday's games -- that comes with it. My take:
-- Division: Daniel Doyle has absolutely been on fire. Jason Kruzel's been swinging consistently. And Andre Bibbs, he of the muscular upper body, is a home-run threat every time he steps to the plate. But you can't go hitless in the first 5 1/3 innings of any game at this level (12-7 loss to Base on Tuesday).
-- Base: Needs to take better care of the ball defensively. Gary Connors at the bottom of the order and Phil Askew at the top are giving Base plenty of pop, as is Carl Holden, who can still rake for an old guy. Four errors in a 15-13 tournament-opening loss to Wing hurt.
-- Wing: They're getting production up and down the order, Their biggest stat? Sacrifice flies, 12 of them in four games. The offense disappeared in an 11-6 loss to Wing; is that an indicator or a blip on the radar?
-- MLG: Many of the components which helped MLG to the title last year are back, along with some new blood (Derrick Battle at shortstop) who can make some noise. That 10-3 opening loss to Wing hurt, and beating Hospital by just three runs shows they're vulnerable.
Time will tell how things will shake out. Green flag flies at 3 p.m. Stay tuned.
Battle was one of two players wearing most unusual head gear during Day 2 of pool play. He and Anthony Baker of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni each sported straw wide-brim hats out on the field, mainly to shield the ol' coconut from the blazing Okinawa heat.
"It's to keep my ears from turning into potato chips in the Okinawa sun," said Battle, 27, a staff sergeant from Jayless, Miss. who, along with Baker, bought his chapeau in the Foster PX men's department.
"It's so stinking hot out here," added Baker, 33, a Navy lieutenant from Shalamar, Fla.
Published: August 8, 2011
A hearty congratulations to the players selected to the All-Air Force men’s and women’s softball tryout camps, scheduled for Aug. 25-Sept. 16, men at Eglin Air Force Base and women at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
It’s been awhile since anybody from Yokota Air Base has been selected, so tip your cap to Chad “Chubby” Baldini and Chelsea Kemper.
Representing Misawa Air Base in northern Japan is Kiel Kauffeld, whom I spotlighted at the Pacificwide tournament in May at Yongsan Garrison, South Korea, for wearing a catcher’s mask while pitching.
And representing Osan Air Base in South Korea are All-Air Force veteran Joyce Washington and first-time selection Rozilynn Breedlove.
Speaking of Osan, the Mustangs showed it out over the weekend at Camp Humphreys, where the men and women recorded a title sweep of the Koreawide post-level tournaments for the first time since 2005.
In a surprising All-Air Force men’s final, Osan beat Kunsan Air Base 15-7 in the title game. Surprising in that Osan knocked off regular-season champion Camp Casey with its three All-Army tryout camp selections, George Finney, Russ Mitcham and Brandon Sonnenburg. The Mustangs shocked Casey 14-8 in the second round, and Casey was later eliminated 13-11 by Yongsan Garrison.
Osan’s women took the hard road, losing in the first round to Daegu/Area IV 14-13, but won their next four games, double-dipping Yongsan 13-5 and 6-0 for the title. Nice note for Washington and Breedlove as they head to Florida in a couple of weeks.
Published: August 8, 2011
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer prepares for four more days in the searing brick oven called Field 1 on Camp Foster:
For a look at complete Day 1 results and photographs, click here.
For a look at complete Day 2 results and photographs, click here.
Another year, another Marine Corps Far East Regional Softball Tournament … another week of wondering and discussing who’s eligible to be selected for the All-Marine tryout camp at Cherry Point, N.C., who isn’t eligible and who really should be.
Of the 90-odd players on the six teams in the tournament, maybe 15, by my early count, are eligible to travel to tryout camp for a spot on the All-Marine team playing in the All-Armed Forces tournament next month at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla.
Two players not eligible at this point who would give the All-Marine team a serious boost are Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler left fielder Phillip Eskew and 3rd Marine Division/III Marine Expeditionary Force shortstop Taylor Smith.
This is a pair of five-tool players, who can run, hit, field, throw and think the game. Guys who if selected, guys who if given a shot at this major honor, would represent the Corps well and could potentially be starters on the All-Marine team for years to come.
Yet they might not get that opportunity, because their commands feel they are more valuable to their duty sections and the Marine Corps mission than hitting a wee ball with a club for several weeks in the States.
This may cause some static with high-ranking folks on island and at Iwakuni, but … to deny a worthy candidate a shot at tryout camp is tantamount to a long-term decision made by short-term people.
Yes, the mission comes first; these players were hired to defend the country, not play softball. But with some creative scheduling – and ensuring the players pull their share of the work load when they return from camp and the All-Armed Forces tournament – the mission can both be furthered in the present and in the future.
But the military does fund the All-Armed Forces sports industry, to the tune of $1.75 billion annually, for a reason – to give elite athletes serving the military an outlet to test their abilities, and also as a valuable recruiting and retention tool.
Give somebody like Eskew or Smith a shot at camp and the chances of them staying in the Marine Corps improve dramatically, and you get to keep quality people like them for the long term.
Who knows which of their co-workers see that they’re going off the North Carolina to try to earn a spot on the All-Marine team, not just to represent their team but to represent the Corps. “Man, you mean you can be a Marine and play softball at the highest level? Cool,” he or she might be thinking.
And who knows which one or several players on a civilian team stateside whom the Marines might scrimmage in the run-up to the All-Armed Forces tournament might be suitably impressed by the same notion that he or she pays a visit to the recruiting office the next Monday?
Deny a Smith or an Eskew that chance … and it may be they who seek a spot on a civilian team stateside after their enlistment or commission expires. And you never know what could have been.
So, when Matt Dennis, Bud Wood or Sonny Jones of Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit athletics on Okinawa approaches you and asks you to give the Askews and Smiths of the world a shot … think about all those things before you say no.
Once again, it was great to see command representation at the Far East Regional Tournament opening ceremony. Just like old times. The III MEF band couldn’t be there Monday afternoon for the festivities, but Sgt. Maj. Brent Cook of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was there, along with MCB command chaplain 1st Lt. Robert James Gelinas. Cook and Anna Borum of the camp services office threw out the first ball before an appreciative crowd and the six teams each lined up in the infield.
A big tip of the cap to the MCCS Semper Fit staff and Gunners Fitness & Sports Complex ground crew for putting Field 1 into playing shape so quickly after the devastation wrought by Typhoon Muifa over the weekend. After it had passed Okinawa, each dugout was filled two-feet deep with water, as much as anything else. It was all cleared out, with opening ceremonies and the start of play Monday delayed only a few minutes.
Unusual bit of rule changing marked the start of play in the tournament, involving games featuring Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and the fact that they somehow were not informed of an important change in this year’s tournament.
Unlike the last two years when MCCS Semper Fit provided the bats for all the teams, as was done at the All-Armed Forces level, we’ve gone back to each player swinging his own composite. Iwakuni found out about this at the pre-tournament coaches meeting on Sunday.
Initially, all the teams agreed to reverting to the rules of two years ago, but that was changed again on Monday. All teams may swing their own bats except when playing Iwakuni; then, each team must swing the MCCS Semper Fit-provided bats.
Gave it a few minutes to digest. Fair enough. Better communication would have averted this, for sure.
As I did during the Firecracker Shootout tournament last month, also on Camp Foster, I continue to hold my breath and hope and pray that no harm come to any children who venture into the dugouts for a drink of Gatorade or water – which belong to the players, by the way – or sit on the dugout ceiling to get a better view.
As I stated then, the tournament’s bylaws addressing who may venture into the dugouts are quite clear and are there for a reason – the concrete surfaces are extremely unforgiving, and can do some serious damage if one of the children falls. Please, please, please, curb your children when your team is playing. There are many grassy areas surrounding the field where playtime can be far less harmful.
Where Hospital cleanup batter Scott Cyr is concerned, the apples did not fall far from the tree. Cyr, 39, a Navy chief petty officer assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Camp Lester, has two athletically gifted children attending Kubasaki High School, sophomore cross-country runner and wrestler Austin and senior cross-country and track distance runner Tyeler. The elder Cyr has had his children on the athletic field from virtually the time they were old enough to walk. Tyeler and Austin also serve as lifeguards at the Camp Foster 50-meter pool. Originally from Hartford, Conn., Cyr calls Gainesville, Fla., home now; Tyeler is planning to do her college undergraduate work at the University of Florida and eventually end up in politics. First, there’s the matter of Austin hoping to return Kubasaki’s wrestling team to its former glory, and Tyeler says she’s already looking ahead to next spring and redemption for Kubasaki’s girls track team, which came up just short in its bid for a Far East meet team title.
Published: August 4, 2011
Weather and transportation issues caused by it forced both the North and South Division title games to be postponed in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League playoffs.
Typhoon Muifa pummeled Okinawa with wind gusts of up to 97 mph and dumped 41 inches of rain in 24 hours, Coaches Kevin Stansel of defending league runner-up Joint Task Force and Gerald Sharber of South regular-season champion Foster agreed to a week's delay in their game, to 6 p.m. Aug. 13 at Kubasaki High School's Mike Petty Stadium.
Personnel evacuating equipment from Okinawa to Yokota Air Base west of Tokyo took up most of the vehicles that defending league champion Yokota had hoped to use to drive Friday to Misawa for the North championship game, pitting the Warriors at the Jets. That game will now be played Aug. 13 at 2 p.m. at Misawa's Hillside Field.
There's a slight chance that the newly configured playoffs may force a pushback of the Torii Bowl title game, scheduled for Aug. 20 at the site of the North champion, either Yokota or Misawa. Not because of either team's inability to host the game; but because the South Division champion would not know to which local it would travel until a week before the game, instead of two weeks.
That may force a pushback of the Torii Bowl to Aug; 27. Fault lies not with any team, but Ma Nature, who doesn't like to be toyed with anyway.
Published: August 2, 2011
Two of the three champions in the 8th U.S. Army company-level, women's and men's over-33 softball tournaments needed to work double time in the title games.
Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 2nd Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery of Camp Carroll rallied out of the knockout bracket to beat 6th Ordnance of U.S. Army Garrison Daegu 9-7 in the second of two final games in the company-level tournament. 6th Ordnance forced the second and deciding contest by winning the first game 9-4.
Same was true of the Area III women. They lost a close one to Area IV 9-8 before rebounding to take the second and deciding game 12-10.
The Area I senior men needed only one final game to seal their championship, but it, too, was a close shave, surviving a close call with Area II 11-10.
Korea's softball season concludes with the Koreawide Postlevel Tournament Aug. 6-7 at Camp Humphreys. Camp Casey's men are favored to bring the tournament title north for the first time in 19 years.
Published: August 2, 2011
Jona Park certainly leaves Yongsan International-Seoul's soccer program as one of its most distinguished stars. He scored 50 goals in Guardians uniform, and helped lead YIS-Seoul to three Far East Boys Division II Tournament titles in four years (and the only reason he didn't get all four is YIS-Seoul didn't travel to the tournament in his junior year). And he did it under three coaches, Nilton Resende, John Peters and Brian Bennett.
Now, Park will ply his skills for the Thunder of Wheaton College, a private, denominational Division III school playing in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin. The Thunder went 11-7-3 last season, losing 3-2 to North Park in the CCIW tournament championship match on Nov. 6, 2010.