OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea – Duke Allen remembers it like it was yesterday. The 2,000-plus who ringed Cougars Field on a balmy afternoon Nov. 5, 2005, when Osan American captured the first Far East Division II football title, rallying past Robert D. Edgren 16-14.
It’s been four years since the Cougars have even sniffed the title, losing twice in three years in 2006 and 2008 at Edgren. And Allen, in his second turn as Osan’s head coach, wants to recapture that glory.
“Osan’s been down the last few years and we’re still rebuilding,” Allen said, adding, however, that the team possesses a “better attitude. The kids are buying into the program, commitment to what football takes.”
Getting back to basics this spring, the Cougars enjoyed their “best off-season than Osan has ever had,” Allen said. “The team came together. They see themselves as family now.”
Still, climbing back to the top might be a tall order for a Cougars team that’s gone 3-15 in the last three seasons since reaching a D-II title game. One of those wins came in the final regular-season game, a 35-25 win last October over eventual two-time D-II champion Daegu High.
“Daegu’s still the one to beat,” Allen said. “You have to give them their due respect for that. They’ve won the last two years.”
Osan will have to make that climb without its star running back of last season, B.J. Bryant. “You don’t replace B.J. with one person,” Allen said. “We have no big bruisers, but we have some tough little guys. They’re all going to replace B.J.”
Allen also hopes to get a full season out of quarterback Kenny Mack Stewart, who tore a knee ACL midway through last season. “He’s a great leader, he knows football and he has a strong arm,” Allen said. “His leadership skills are a big help for us.”
Then, there’s the rare find within DODDS, a player who stayed in Cougars powder blue and black for all four high school years – receiver Ibrahim Mustapha.
“He’s emotional, he gets fired up all the time, he has great hands and excellent speed,” Allen said. “We rarely get such a talent, rarely get a kid for four years.”
Should all the pieces fall into place and the talent develops, Allen feels a return to hosting the D-II championship might be possible. “It would be graet. We’re working for that,” he said. “We’re rebuilding, coming up from the bottom, but anything can happen.”
Osan American Cougars
Osan Air Base, South Korea
2011 season record—1-5 overall, .167, 92 points for, 205 points against. 1-3 DODDS Korea, .250, 53 points for, 124 points against.
Head coach—Duke Allen, second season.
Base offense—Maryland I, double wing.
Key returners—Ibrahim Mustapha, Jr., WR-DB; Kenny Mack Stewart, Sr., QB; Noah Stokes, Sr., WR-DB; Daniel Plourde, Sr., K-P-DB.
Key newcomers—Charles Hogan, Sr., OL-DL (transfer from Maryland); Tim Ampa, Sr., RB-DB (transfer from Florida); Preston Blakley, Sr., OL-LB; Alex Fisher, So., OL-LB (transfer from Texas).
Strengths—Teamwork, hard working kids, a new attitude for Osan football. Players and coaches fired up, more of a family feel. Had best off-season conditioning program in many years at Osan.
Overview—Rebuilding. Still very young. Many players have never played football before. Coaches must “coach them up” to get them ready, Allen said. “Players are working hard and are excited for the season.”
Saturday, Aug. 25—at Kadena, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8—at Robert D. Edgren, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15—vs. Zama American, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 21—at Daegu High, 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28—vs. Seoul American, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 6—vs. Kubasaki, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 12—vs. Daegu High, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20—vs. Singapore All-Stars, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26—at Seoul American, 7 p.m.