CAMP ZAMA, Japan – Familiarity has been a common denominator in the last four Far East High School Division II championship football games.
Daegu and this year’s host Zama American faced each other three straight years in the final and learned each other’s tendencies inside and out, their coaches said. Though Robert D. Edgren replaces Daegu this year, familiarity is still the theme as the teams have already played twice this season.
Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. Saturday. The game will air on AFN Tokyo Eagle 810-AM and AFN Misawa’s 1575 AM The Source.
Zama’s modified double wing and wing-T got the best of Edgren’s zone-read spread option offense twice: 40-26 on Oct. 5 at Edgren and 40-19 on Oct. 19 at Zama.
“Familiarity helps in that you know what the other guy does, but it also hurts because they know you,” coach Steven Merrell of Zama said.
“It makes for an interesting experience. There are no surprises; even with a few new wrinkles, nobody is going to revamp everything they do. We know each other’s philosophies and what each is trying to do.”
Zama, 5-5 overall and 4-0 in D-II, takes on an Edgren team (2-6, 2-2) on a four-game losing streak, but which has had three weeks off to heal injuries to key stars.
Quarterback Tristan Jefferson and receiver Khalil Williams are healthy again after suffering leg injuries. And coach Blaine Miller says he and the team have gone back to fundamentals and basics in practice, studying the Trojans’ attack inside and out.
“Hopefully, that will get us through,” Miller said.
Big plays got the Eagles most of their points against the Trojans, with tiny Tyrone Bacalso catching four TD passes against Zama.
“They have that quick-strike ability,” Merrell said. “We have to be on our toes. You never know what a team like that will do.”
Aside from time in the classroom breaking down film and studying the Trojans’ tendencies, Miller has stressed taking better care of the football. Edgren gave up three fumbles and threw four interceptions against Zama.
“You don’t do well when you give the ball back after three downs,” Miller said.
Blazing the trail for Zama in its run-oriented attack is senior Andre Encarnacion, who has had his best two games of the season against Edgren, including a four-touchdown performance on Oct. 19. He leads the Pacific with 16 TDs and has 1,178 yards on 148 carries.
“Their double wing is nasty and they do it so well,” Miller said. “They’re (Zama) a good team. It will take work and perfection to knock them off.”