YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – American School In Japan vs. Yokota is usually a tough football battle. But Friday’s contest at Yokota’s Bonk Field gives the rivalry a sense of urgency, Panthers coach Tim Pujol said.

It gives him an early look at what Yokota has to do to prepare for the Far East Division I playoffs, against an ASIJ team that’s won three of its last four against Yokota.

“It’s a good early-season litmus test,” Pujol said.

The Mustangs won the Kanto Plain title in 2009, interrupting Yokota’s run of 11 straight titles.

“ASIJ is a quality program. They’re well coached. They do things to create problems for us. We have to be really sharp to beat those guys.”

Having run a hybrid version of a spread option/wing-T the past two seasons, ASIJ settled on the ground in their 42-26 home win last Saturday vs. Zama American, with Ken Yajima and Zach Oshima combining for 289 yards and four touchdowns.

Yokota still has to contend with third-year starting quarterback Hayden Jardine, whom many consider the best signal-caller in the league.

The Panthers, meanwhile, have not put the ball in the air in 107 plays this season. Morgan Breazell has taken the early-season Japan rushing lead with 323 yards and five touchdowns on 114 carries; Yokota has beaten each of its two foes 34-0.

That will mean nothing if ASIJ can repeat what it did last Oct. 22, when it handed Yokota its first loss of the season, 34-24, at Mustang Valley. “They were so sharp, so focused. They made big plays in that game,” Pujol said.

Or it could be like Yokota’s 46-7 rout of ASIJ last Sept. 3, after the Panthers had two preseason games and the Mustangs no game preparation.

“Yokota has a history of excellence,” said John Seevers, who’s been with ASIJ football since 1976. “Tim’s put together a good team. They’re well coached. Whatever the sport, it’s always great competition.”

Elsewhere around the Pacific:

-- Get set for the second meeting of defending Division I and II champions in as many years, this time Daegu American at Kadena. The question being, when will the game be played? It’s scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, but with Tropical Storm Roke approaching, it may be pushed up to 4 p.m. Friday.

-- Same with the Seoul American at Kubasaki battle, slated for 7 p.m. Saturday. That may also be moved up a day. Either day, the weather isn’t looking good, with high winds and rain showers.

-- Nile C. Kinnick seeks a season sweep over Zama American when it hosts the Trojans at Berkey Field, Yokosuka Naval Base, at 7:30 p.m.

-- And Guam High battles Father Duenas Memorial at George Washington High School at 7 p.m., as the Panthers try to stay within a half-game of league-leading George Washington.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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