The playing field in Pacific high school football has not been level the past three seasons.

Parity is out. Haves and have-nots are in. Rarely do the two meet.

The scores of the 154 games played in Korea, Japan, Okinawa and Guam the past two seasons provide compelling evidence.

• Average margin of victory: 25 points.

• Number of shutouts: 73.

Through 28 games this season, teams have won by an average of 28.5 points, with 11 shutouts.

Nowhere has the disparity been greater than in the Okinawa Activities Council, in which the average margin of victory — 15 points the past two seasons — has nearly doubled to 28.

The league’s haves, the Kadena Islanders (3-0) and Buccaneers (2-1) have outscored the have-nots, the Kubasaki Shogun (1-3) and Samurai (0-4), by a combined 145-0, with four more interschool contests scheduled.

Why the sudden spike on Okinawa, the most closely matched league in the Pacific since the 2001 season?

The coaches at both schools say you need look no further than the rosters. Kadena’s numbers are almost double those of the 2002 season, while Kubasaki’s teams are hurting for players after the Marine Corps’ stop-loss and stop-move programs were lifted late last spring, triggering a wave of transfers.

Kubasaki’s teams “are in a hurting spell,” fifth-year Buccaneers coach Brian Wetherington said. “Stop-loss and stop-move really killed them.”

Kadena’s teams each fielded fewer than 20 players while going a combined 6-11 last season, while the Shogun and 2002 champion Samurai, with almost twice that number, went 12-6.

It’s the opposite this season. The Samurai and Shogun each have fewer than 20 players while the Bucs are suiting up 30 and the Islanders 28.

That’s to be expected, Shogun coach Charles Burns said, because Kadena’s enrollment has swelled to almost 1,000 and Kubasaki is “scraping by” with just around 600, down about 100 from last year.

“They have more to choose from. The numbers just don’t match up,” Burns said. “If you have quality numbers and experience, it makes a difference. They have two armored divisions on their side of the field. We don’t even have a good rifle squad right now.”

Each Okinawa team has a core of experienced players. It’s a question of what they have surrounding them.

“It wasn’t expected to be this way,” Burns said. “On paper last spring, we were expecting 15 players back.”

It ended up being six: quarterback Orlando Bell, receivers Ronnie Stevens, Nick Leemaster and Lee Miller, running back Matt O’Neill and lineman Joe King.

“The rest are freshmen or brand new to football,” Burns said.

The Islanders and Bucs have a core of three or four stars, but all are complemented by promising youngsters expected to hang around for two or three seasons.

“The best may be yet to come,” Islanders second-year coach Sergio Mendoza said. “Right now, you have the returning players carrying the teams. The numbers are better, but the core players are the ones shining.”

That would mean lineman Cole Maxey, running backs Demetrius Kenney and Antoine Smith and quarterback Alex Berrios of the Islanders, all of whom were around for the past two seasons, when the Islanders were 1-15.

Two of Mendoza’s newcomers, David McCowan and Keith Loving, “haven’t really exploded yet,” he said.

“Once we break out, it’s going to be beautiful. One game, these kids are going to turn the corner and people will see how really good they are.”

Buccaneer country is home to backs A.J. Morgan and Tyler Schmidt and receiver Heath Anderson. “They’re the heart and soul of that team but you also have some potential there, too,” Mendoza said.

That would mean sophomore running back Darnell Womach, another player expected to be a cornerstone of future Bucs teams.

Turning the tide will take time.

“There are no quick fixes, not in high school football,” Burns said. “It’s just that way. The secret is hard work. You can’t take a pill and become an overnight success.”

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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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