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Early returns for the 2016 DODEA-Europe Division I football season suggest another fall full of parity and unpredictability.

Two of the three games from last weekend’s slate of non-conference matchups were decided by eight points or less, and the other was tied at halftime. As a result, each of the division’s six entries emerged with at least some degree of optimism as the race for the postseason begins in earnest this weekend.

Kaiserslautern’s season opener ended with the rebuilding Raiders on the wrong end of a 53-13 beatdown at the hands of Ramstein. That’s hard to construe as a positive, but the game should not be considered cause for outright despair. The Raiders scored the game’s first touchdown, held a 7-0 lead through one quarter and entered the second half tied at a touchdown apiece. The wheels came off thereafter, but Kaiserslautern at least proved that it does indeed have functional wheels.

The Raiders host Wiesbaden for homecoming on Friday night. The Warriors also took a loss last weekend, though theirs came by a more respectable 27-20 score to Lakenheath. And the building blocks for success were there, even if they weren’t yet fully assembled. Notably, Wiesbaden managed to move the ball, minimize penalties and force four second-half Lancer turnovers.

Last weekend’s other loser was Stuttgart. If one was looking to dream up the exact opposite of the magical moments of triumph that defined last fall’s Panther championship run, Saturday’s sloppy, rain-soaked 14-6 loss to hard-hitting Vilseck might be exactly that. But the game was so waterlogged and disjointed that it’s hard to place too much stock into its results.

The Panthers get another chance at a fresh start Saturday at home against Lakenheath, and the forecast calls for sunny weather. But a figurative storm could arrive in the form of the increasingly dangerous Lancers, who will be chasing a win streak in hopes of a second straight playoff berth.

Vilseck, which joined Kaiserslautern on the postseason sidelines last fall, visits Ramstein on Saturday in a battle of 1-0 teams.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes


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