CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Excitement prevails in Kubasaki High School football Dragonland, coach Fred Bales says.
He has good reason.
Despite losing last year’s Far East Division I title game 34-6 at Yokota along with their veteran quarterback and experienced receiver corps, the Dragons are rich in experience where it counts, in the line and the backfield.
Speedy junior Jarrett Mitchell (758 yards, 69 carries) returns and is joined by senior Aaron Stravers, a transfer from Nile C. Kinnick.
“We have a chance to be really exciting,” Bales said Friday, the end of the first week of two-a-day practices.
In addition to the backs, four of Kubasaki’s five starting linemen return, while the fifth, Tyler Smith, moves from center to quarterback, where he’ll replace graduated Cristian Rivera.
To whom Smith throws depends a great deal on what Bales calls an intense competition among several youngsters vying for receiver spots and who’ve just arrived at Kubasaki.
Sophomore Kareem Key moves from line to tight end. Senior Ryan Burnette is among those competing for receiver berths, along with transfer Joe Cervantes, a junior from Oceanside, Calif., sophomore D.J. Aldereman and promising freshman Justin Willis.
“We have three or four young receivers aspiring to that level, competing to see who comes out on top,” Bales said of a group that must replace standout Brandon Crawford, among others.
“I’m encouraged by some of these new arrivals who will be around for a while,” he said.
While Stravers will only be around for one season, he says he relishes the chance to go from a Red Devils team that went 5-13 the last two years to a team that has one D-I title and another D-I runner-up finish under its belt.
“It’s a lot different,” said Stravers, whose father Jason coaches Camp Hansen in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League.
The play of the line has impressed Stravers thus far. “I expect to get a lot of yards. I know Jarrett’s going to do big things,” he said.
That said, the Dragons are still relatively young, having graduated 25 seniors the past two years. But if all the pieces come together, continued success may be in the offing, Bales said.
“We have experience in the offensive line, good attitude, gifted athletes, strong backfield, the seniors are a small but solid group,” he said. “I’m excited.”
Camp Foster, Okinawa
2011 season record—6-2, .750, 201 points for, 85 points against; 1-1 Okinawa Activities Council, .500, 27 points for, 15 points against, won league title on aggregate. Won Far East Division I semifinal game 22-7 over Seoul American on Oct. 29; lost D-I title game 34-6 on Nov. 12 at Yokota.
Head coach—Fred Bales, eightth season. Overall record 18-17, .514, two Okinawa Activities Council titles, one Division I title (2005).
Base offense—Multiple, I.
Base defense—4-man fronts.
Key performers—Tyler Smith, Jr., QB; Jarrett Mitchell, Jr., RB (758 yards, 69 carries); Tyshon Butler, Jr., DT; Fred Suniga, Sr., L.
Key newcomers—Aaron Stravers, Sr., FB-LB (transferred from Nile C. Kinnick, Japan); Joe Cervantes, Jr., WR (transferred from Oceanside High, Calif.); Ryan Burnette, Sr., WR; Kareem Key, So., TE; Justin Willis, Fr., WR; D.J. Alderman, So., WR.
Strengths—Strong in the backfield, line a year older and wiser.
Drawbacks—Inexperience at QB, WR, young overall, graduated 25 seniors the last two years.
Overview—Reloading. Bales has shifted some people to new positions and says he’s encouraged by the look of young, new arrivals who’ll be around for a while.
Saturday, Sept. 1—vs. Daegu High, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8—at Seoul American, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 15—vs. Yokota, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 22—vs. Guam High, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 28—vs. Kadena, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 6—at Osan American, 6 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 13—vs. Nile C. Kinnick, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26—at Kadena, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 3—at Singapore All-Stars, 3 p.m.