Coaches: Every game's critical under new system
September 26, 2012
CAMP WALKER, South Korea – There’s nothing like every game being a “must-win” game for teams, coaches and players to ramp up their sense of urgency.
That’s what coaches Ken Walter and Blaine Miller of Daegu and Robert D. Edgren said Wednesday as they prepared for their Division II showdown at 6 p.m. Saturday at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field.
With the new “everybody-plays-everybody” setup and the goal being to finish in one of those top two Division I and II title-game slots, Saturday’s game and every other intra-division game can make the chase turn on a dime, coaches said.
“We have a three- or four-week window that decides the season,” Walter said. “We can only do what we have control over, and that’s win the game. If we lose, we’re guaranteed not to be in.”
No longer is it a guarantee, either, that one Korea and one Japan team each will make it to the final. Thus, had Daegu won its game at Zama American earlier this month (the Warriors lost 45-12), “we’d have been playing for home field. Instead, we’re playing just to make” the Nov. 10 title game.
“It puts more credibility in the term ‘championship’ when there are more teams and more competition,” first-year Eagles coach Blaine Miller said.
Four Division I teams have similar concerns entering the weekend:
-- Kadena (2-0) comes off a two-week weather- and schedule-induced hiatus, Kubasaki (2-1 overall, 2-0 D-I) comes off a home loss to Guam High, and each team controls its own fate in Friday’s showdown at Kubasaki at 6 p.m.
-- Yokota (4-0 overall, 3-0 D-I), the defending D-I champion, also controls its own destiny when it travels to Nile C. Kinnick (3-2, 0-1), although the Red Devils still have the lion’s share of their D-I schedule left to play.
Edgren and Daegu will look very similar in terms of offensive formation – each runs the spread-option – although the Eagles are more apt to go to the air behind Tristan Jefferson (51-for-106, 709 yards, 10 TDs), while the Warriors prefer to ground pound it with Ronald McLean (478 yards, 63 carries).
The fact that the Warriors and Eagles haven’t faced each other since the 2007 D-II title game means none of the current players have seen each other, making it all the more intriguing, coaches said.
“This is definitely going to be one of the most interesting games this season in the Pacific,” Miller said. “I know my guys are excited to travel and play folks they’ve never seen before.”
“It’s taken us a while to find our legs with this young group,” Walter said, and he could have been speaking for both Edgren and Daegu, who each have young rosters of mostly freshmen and sophomores. “We’ve been building up for this, and now, this behaves as a play-in game, a playoff game.”
The week in Pacific high school football begins earlier than usual; Seoul American visits Osan American on Thursday. The game was bumped up a day due to holiday traffic associated with the Korean harvest celebration of Chuseok.