YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Just two weeks into his first season as commissioner, Joseph Howell has encountered the problems that have plagued the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League and decided to pare down the original 12-game schedule.

Already there have been more games postponed or canceled (two) than played (one), so on Monday Howell cut each of the seven teams’ schedules from 12 games to eight, a move he said was necessary because the original schedule was “too ambitious.”

“It would have been great to have a 12-game season, but that may have been wishful thinking on my part,” Howell said.

Thirty games have been called off since the 2000 season because of duty commitments, transportation and weather concerns.

Regular-season play was to begin May 24 with the Kadena Dragons visiting the Yokosuka Seahawks and stretch through Sept. 10, with each of the league’s teams playing one another twice.

But the season opener was called off, Dragons coach Glen Ballard said, because Kadena Air Base was on exercise that week.

Then, Yokosuka couldn’t make its game at Misawa on May 31 because of transportation problems, Yokosuka sports director Jesse Ecklund said.

With so many games on the original schedule, there was no room to make up either game, Howell said.

“To schedule that many games,” he said, “may have pushed us back into October.”

Faced with that, revamping the schedule made sense, Howell said.

The new schedule also is “more travel friendly,” Howell said, noting teams will travel between Japan and Okinawa just once, and not until August, giving teams two months to secure transportation.

The three teams on Okinawa will play one another home and away, and will play the teams in Japan once each, either at home or away on a rotating basis.

Same goes for the teams based in Japan, who play one another home and away with two exceptions — Yokosuka will not travel to Misawa, and Atsugi will not visit Yokota. Those matchups would have given the Japan teams an extra game.

Teams seem to be on board with the new schedule.

“It makes good sense,” Yokota Raiders coach Chuck Wichert said. “Guys won’t be getting exhausted. It will help out that we won’t have to travel as much.”

Coach John Quintana of the Futenma Falcons, one of the league’s two new teams that will make their debut June 21, breathed a sigh of relief when he saw the new schedule. He said his team would have had a problem if it had to start the season earlier, due to lack of equipment.

“We expect to put 30 guys on the field on the 21st against Kadena,” Quintana said.

The schedule ...


Saturday, May 3

Marine Bowl, Asahi Silver Star 56, Misawa 12


Saturday, May 31

Atsugi 6, Yokota 0

Saturday, June 7

Ryukyu University at Kadena, 7 p.m.

Misawa at Yokota, 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 14

Atsugi at Misawa, 7 p.m.

Yokosuka at Yokota, 7 p.m.

Saturday, June 21

Ryukyu University at Courtney-Hansen, 7 p.m.

Futenma at Kadena, 7 p.m.

Atsugi at Yokosuka, 6 p.m.

Sunday, June 22

Yokota vs. Japan National Team, 1 p.m., Kawasaki Stadium

Saturday, June 28

Courtney-Hansen at Kadena, 7 p.m.

Ryukyu University at Futenma, TBA

Misawa at Yokosuka, 6 p.m.

Saturday, July 5

Futenma at Courtney-Hansen, 7 p.m.

Ryukyu University at Kadena, 7 p.m.

Yokohama at Atsugi, 1 p.m.

Saturday, July 12

Ryukyu University at Courtney-Hansen, 7 p.m.

Kadena at Futenma, TBA

Misawa at Atsugi, 1 p.m.

Yokohama at Yokota, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 19

Courtney-Hansen at Futenma, TBA

Yokohama at Yokosuka, 6 p.m.

Yokota at Misawa, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 26

Ryukyu University at Futenma, TBA

Courtney-Hansen at Kadena, 7 p.m.

Yokota at Yokosuka, 6 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 2

Futenma at Atsugi

Kadena at Yokota

Yokosuka at Courtney-Hansen

Saturday, Aug. 9

Kadena at Yokosuka

Yokota at Courtney-Hansen

Wednesday, Aug. 13

Yokota at Futenma

Misawa at Kadena

Saturday, Aug. 16

Yokosuka at Atsugi

Saturday, Aug. 23

Courtney-Hansen at Misawa

Atsugi at Kadena

Yokosuka at Futenma

Sunday, Aug. 24

Yokohama at Yokota

Tuesday, Aug. 26

Courtney-Hansen at Atsugi

Futenma at Misawa. End regular season.

Saturday, Aug. 30

Makeup weekend if needed

Saturday, Sept. 6

Makeup weekend if needed


Saturday, Sept. 13

Semifinal, No. 3 regular-season team at No. 2 regular-season team, TBD.

Saturday, Sept. 20

Championship, Sept. 13 winner at regular-season champion.

author picture
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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