Chance at title keeps Edgren spirits high
A season ago, a lengthy losing streak almost disintegrated Robert D. Edgren’s football team. Portions of the team wanted to turn in their gear, citing the losing streak and a “lack of leadership” on the part of the team’s veterans.
Fast forward to Friday. The Eagles have lost their last two games to fall to 2-5, but are far from the divisiveness that nearly wrecked the team in 2011.
“They still have something to play for,” coach Blaine Miller said of the chance to win the Far East Division II title. “Nobody’s crying. They still get to play for a trophy. All OK.”
The Eagles (2-1 D-II) visit Zama American (4-4 overall, 3-0 D-II) on Friday; if Zama wins or loses by 13 points or fewer, the Trojans will host the D-II title game on Nov. 10; if Edgren wins by 15 or more, the Eagles host. If Edgren wins by 14, point differential for the season is used, with 20-point maximums for each win or loss.
Elsewhere Friday, Yokota (7-0) hosts Nile C. Kinnick (4-4) and Kubasaki (5-1) is at Kadena (3-2), all except Kinnick hoping to take another step toward hosting the Division I title game on Nov. 17.
Daegu (2-5) travels to Seoul American (2-4) with the DODDS Korea title on the line. And on Saturday, Guam High (7-0) hosts defending champion George Washington (5-2) in the Interscholastic Football League semifinals.
More than just having a shot at the D-II title is in play for the Eagles, coach and players say, and those roots are in the 2010-11 school year when quarterback Tristan Jefferson and the Eagles won the D-II baseball title and receiver Khalil Williams and Edgren won the DODDS Japan regular-season basketball title.
Those two events “reversed” the losing culture at the school, Jefferson said.
“All of our (boys) sports teams had been bad” for the previous three years, he said. “We proved to the whole school and its way of thinking, if you come out and work hard, don’t make mistakes and do what you have to do, you can win.”
Miller, the Eagles’ first-year coach, coaxed Williams, a basketball star, to suit up for football for the first time in three years. “He said this year would be special,” Williams said. “It’s been worth it, definitely.”
Veteran Louis Murphy feels Miller has been responsible for the turnaround in the team’s mindset.
“He knows where to put people, he knows strategies and tactics,” Murphy said. “You can tell he’s coached for a long time.”
Though the Trojans won the last battle between the two teams, 40-26 on Oct. 5 at Misawa Air Base, Zama coach Steven Merrell isn’t leaving a thing to chance.
“I remind them of it, I talk to them about the gravity” of Friday’s game, Merrell said. “It looks as if the kids are buying into it. Just because we beat them once, doesn’t mean we’ll beat them again.”