TOKYO — Guam High’s five-year run at a Far East High School Division I football title is over, at least for now.

Due to conflicts between DODDS Pacific’s and Guam’s island playoffs, Guam High has chosen to honor its commitment to the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam schedule and drop out of the Far East playoff picture, team and DODDS Pacific officials said Thursday.

Once Guam High finishes its playoff schedule Oct. 23, it will play one road game Oct. 30 against one of the five Division I schools that do not qualify for the Far East playoffs.

“I think it was a wise decision,” DODDS Pacific athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said. “They’ll focus on the island championship. They’re in a league. They had to commit to one of the two. It wouldn’t have been fair to the other teams in the league to just opt out.”

Until this season, Guam High was given a free pass into the Division I playoffs along with Seoul American. The plan was to have Seoul play at Japan’s No. 2 Division I team and Guam High at Okinawa’s No. 2 team on Oct. 16. But that’s the same week as the IIAAG semifinals.

Last season, the Panthers played the IIAAG’s third-place game on Nov. 6, followed by the Far East semifinal on Nov. 10 – the Panthers lost 15-0 to Seoul American – and the DODDS third-place game on Nov. 14, which they lost 24-7 to Yokota.

Hobbs said DODDS didn’t wish to see Guam High repeat that. Panthers coach Billy Henry said the Panthers were given three options: Play only in the IIAAG’s Interscholastic Football League or in the DODDS Far East playoffs, or take the Oct. 30 game at the loser of an Oct. 16 game pitting Japan’s second-place Division I team at Okinawa’s second-place Division I squad.

Henry said the school’s athletics director Airean Lopez offered the choice to the team’s parents, who chose the third option.

“It worked out quite well,” Henry said. “The kids will be excited about the travel and they’ll be competitive. The kids are positive and I believe the parents are satisfied.”

Under the new arrangement, Seoul American will continue to get a bye into the Division I playoffs, along with Japan’s and Okinawa’s regular-season champions and the Oct. 16 Japan and Okinawa No. 2 winner. Japan’s No. 2, if it wins, won’t play Japan’s No. 1 in the semifinals, just as Okinawa’s No. 2 won’t face Okinawa’s No. 1.

Though his Falcons still get a free pass, Seoul American coach Billy Ratcliff expressed some slight disappointment at the decision.

“I feel you should prove that you belong in there,” Ratcliff said, adding that he feels his Falcons would prove they deserve to be in anyway. “I think our season will prove that. We’ll line up and be ready to play whomever we play.”

Asked if some day there may be room for Guam High to return to the DODDS playoffs, Hobbs said: “We’ll see how it goes,” adding that the number of Division I schools could change in future years.

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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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