Eighth in a series of DODDS Pacific high school football team previews.
They’re young and small, short on numbers and they welcome a fourth new coaching staff in the last six seasons. And they face a seemingly uphill battle in attempting to keep up with their Japan Division II brethren, let alone what may happen against the Division I wolves.
So Bill Schofield, the new architect of Robert D. Edgren football, and a staff including Misawa Jets base team coach Jeremy Sanders, are tailoring the Eagles’ attack to their small size – and will hope that speed gives the team what it needs.
“We have some really fast players,” said Schofield, who transferred to Misawa Air Base and Edgren from Bamberg, Germany. “If we do anything at all, it will be with speed.”
For Schofield, this is the second straight season that he could call extensively challenging. Schofield exited Europe after coaching the combined Bamberg-Schweinfurt team last year before both schools closed in June.
He and Sanders inherit an Eagles team that has reached the last two Far East D-II title games (losing each), but went a combined 3-16 the last two seasons.
At the heart of the rebuilding effort is a core of senior and junior veterans, most small in size, including junior Shawn Robinson, arguably the school’s best athlete. He likely will move under center and have senior transfer Daniel Lovett (from New Mexico) as one of his targets.
Coming over from reigning D-II champion Daegu is junior Blake Smaw. Junior Dorian Dillon remains the tallest, biggest Eagle on the roster and will anchor the line along with junior David Warren.
But with only 25 players, the Eagles cannot field a junior varsity, something Schofield says disappoints him. When Schofield coached the JV at Nile C. Kinnick in the mid-2000s, “we always appreciated Edgren contributing a JV game for us.”
Up front and in the secondary “we should hold our own,” Schofield said, adding that he hopes the Eagles can stay competitive at least against Japan D-II rivals Zama and Matthew C. Perry, the latter a start-up program returning to varsity ball after an 11-year hiatus.
But far be it from the Eagles to simply view games with Division I teams as “ones that don’t count” – Schofield says he and the Eagles plan to bring it to them as well. “Part of the season we set up a fast offense was to be competitive with Division I,” he said.
At Sanders’ side on the sideline will be his longtime Jets offensive coordinator, Fred Ellis, who played for Yokota in the 1990s, then later played and coached for the Jets and Kadena Dragons U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League base teams after enlisting in the Air Force.
Sanders is “very motivated right now, and he has a good offensive coach in Ellis,” Schofield said. “If we can hang onto these coaches, we can help establish a program here.”
Not that coaches are the ones who win games. “But we’ll see if can contribute something,” he said. “They (Sanders, Ellis and assistants) work really well with kids.”