YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – They’ve been together for three seasons and have reached the point where they can predict each other’s moves and read the tone of each other’s voices.
They average 248 pounds from tackle to tackle and are the cornerstone of an offense that has led the way for four backs to combine for 3,314 yards and 47 touchdowns.
Seniors Victor Madaris, Max Lester, Dylan Kessler, Jake Jackson and Jesse Hogan have been a key reason Yokota has gone 26-2 and outscored opponents 1,067-232 since 2010 and won three DODDS Japan titles and the first Division I championship in school history a year ago.
The Panthers (10-0) host Kubasaki (6-3), the team they vanquished 34-6 in last year’s D-I title game, again on Saturday in a rematch at the same site.
“It’s good that we’ve been around for awhile,” Madaris said Friday over lunch at Yokota’s enlisted club, surrounded by five teammates, including Kessler. “We get along well, and even when we argue, it’s about the right things. There’s a lot of trust among us.”
With the senior five leading the way, Yokota’s backfield has benefitted greatly; this is the first Panthers squad since 2000 to have two 1,000-yard backs.
Raymond Butler leads the way with 1,120 yards and 12 touchdowns on 83 carries. Breazell leads the team in touchdowns with 15 and has 1,030 yards on 101 carries. Donovan Ball missed the first three games with a leg injury, but has amassed 629 yards and nine TDs on just 38 carries.
Then there’s quarterback-tailback Stanley Speed, who’s amassed 881 yards of total offense with 15 touchdowns.
With that weaponry at coach Tim Pujol’s disposal, Madaris doesn’t see the Panthers doing much differently than they have in their previous two encounters with the Dragons, including Yokota’s 31-6 triumph last month at Kubasaki.
Kubasaki’s line is almost as large, topping out with junior Byron Redifer at 280 pounds and sophomore Josiah Allen at 250. They and their linemates have cleared paths for junior running back Jarrett Mitchell to run for 1,326 yards on 126 carries with 15 TDs.
The difference is experience. While Yokota’s line is upperclassmen-laden, only two Dragons linemen are seniors, Fred Suniga and Charles Martin, and most have played together one season.
“They’re well coached,” Dragons coach Fred Bales said of a Pujol-coached team that plays “hard-nosed, in-your-face, stop-us-if-you-can football.”
“We have to play mistake-free football and win as many one-on-one battles on both sides of the ball as we can,” Bales said.