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Not in nearly 10 years has a Robert D. Edgren-Yokota football matchup taken on so much importance.

The teams kick off at 7 p.m. Friday at Yokota’s Bonk Field in a battle for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan Football League supremacy.

Last week, the Panthers — nine-time league champions — extended their Pacific-record regular-season winning streak to 50 games.

Standing in the way of No. 51 is a hungry flock of Eagles that has suffered two one-point losses to Yokota in the past two years. They’ve won two straight Class A titles and 10 of their past 14 games dating back to 2006.

Coaches who’ve faced both teams this season say Friday’s contest will be ultra-competitive, with the Eagles a threat to end the winning streak and win their first game at Yokota since the 1999 opener.

"Yokota is a sound, disciplined, structured team and program with everything in place, and Edgren has great athletes who go get the job done for them," said Steven Merrell. His Zama American squad lost 42-6 at Yokota on Sept. 5 and 32-13 to Edgren on Aug. 29 at Zama.

Tom Bell’s Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils got shut out 35-0 by Yokota at home on Aug. 29 and almost rallied from a 21-0 deficit in losing 30-26 to Edgren on Sept. 5 at home. Bell predicts a "knock-down drag-out" game.

"Whoever wins will be the one who makes the least mental mistakes," Bell said. "Going 100 percent all four quarters. I know Yokota is capable of that. Had I had another offensive series against Edgren, it might have been a different game."

Elsewhere Friday, Bell’s Red Devils host the American School in Japan (0-0) at 7 p.m., while Seoul American (1-0) travels to Osan American (0-0) in Korea at 6 p.m.

On Saturday at 7 p.m., Guam High (1-0) plays perhaps its most important game in school history, hosting 2003-06 island champion George Washington (1-1) at Naval Station’s Blue Jacket Field.

Bell and Merrell agreed it takes total focus, execution and an ability to slow down or stop each team’s big playmakers for a chance at beating either Edgren or Yokota.

That would mean closely covering Johnell Alexander (270 yards, four touchdowns, 40 carries this season) and Jamal Dennis (108 yards, two touchdowns, 12 carries last week) of Edgren and Yokota’s Derick Seward (306 yards, five touchdowns, 18 carries), among others.

One can’t afford to make mental mistakes against Yokota, Bell said. "They will take advantage of everything you give them. And they’re good at it. They’ve had 10 years of it."

To shut down Edgren’s athletes, one must "play responsibilities well," Merrell said. "Linebackers have to fill the proper gaps. Everybody has to play proper technique. If you give them a crease, they’ll be gone."

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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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