Edgren-Zama battle has new meaning
An unusual means is being used to select Japan’s representative in the Far East Division II football title game Nov. 5 in Korea.
Due to Tropical Storm Talas forcing postponement of the teams’ Sept. 2 game, DODDS Pacific ruled that Robert D. Edgren and 2009 D-II champion Zama American will play just once this season - at 5:30 p.m. Friday at a neutral site, Yokosuka Naval Base - in a “winner-take-all” battle.
And Edgren’s coach Michael Gros is none too pleased, stoutly protesting that the teams could have played a second time this season, as has been the custom since the Far East playoffs inception in 2005.
“We’re very upset about it,” Gros said. “The whole thing is unfair. We did everything we could to make it happen. Here we’re stuck playing one less game this season and it’s one of the most important ones. What matters for us is we play Zama twice.”
Originally, Zama was to visit Edgren on Sept. 2; the sites were flipped because Misawa Air Base’s football officials were deployed that week. Talas battered central Honshu the same weekend; DODDS officials told Edgren to stay home due to weather-related safety concerns.
Thus, Edgren was to host Zama on Friday, but DODDS officials ruled that because it would have given just one team, Edgren, a home game, that the two would play just once at a neutral site, Yokosuka.
Gros acknowledged that students’ safety is “the most important thing, but it was the second week of the season. You can’t tell me they couldn’t get us two games” with Zama.
Edgren ended up losing a home game as well, Gros said. “All those Kanto Plain schools only have to travel up here one time each year. We have to go to them four times.”
Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said DODDS Pacific looked at several options for giving Zama and Edgren a second game, each of which would have involved asking other schools to reschedule as well.
Among those options was the weekend of Oct. 14-15. Kubasaki visits Zama while Yokota travels to Edgren; Hobbs said switching the schedule to have Zama visit Edgren and Kubasaki play at Yokota was considered.
“We determined it would have been too disruptive to the regular season if we made the adjustment,” Hobbs said. “We could have said they’ll play twice and switch other teams out, but we didn’t think it was fair to bring two more schools into this.”
That said, Hobbs indicated that DODDS Pacific would address the situation and look to other options should the same thing happen again in the future. “We’ll look at it as a lesson learned,” he said.
While Gros was not happy, Zama coach Steven Merrell said he had no problem with the “winner-take-all” game other than losing a home game.
“That part of it stinks,” Merrell said. “But I’m OK with it like it is. I’m excited about the opportunity; it’s like a playoff game in the middle of the season. You play one time, you don’t have to worry about point differential; if you get one more point than they, it’s a win.”
In Korea, where the two Division II teams will play each other twice, Osan American begins its quest to reach its first title game since 2008 when it visits reigning D-II champion Daegu American at 6 p.m. Friday.
Elsewhere, the Far East Division I playoffs begin Monday with the quarterfinal play-in games featuring Seoul American (2-2) at Nile C. Kinnick (2-3) and Guam High (3-3) at Kadena (3-1), which is coming off its first shutout in Panthers history.
The Seoul-Kinnick winner advances to play at Kubasaki and the Guam High-Kadena winner travels to Yokota for the D-I semifinals Oct. 29. Those winners play Nov. 12 for the title at a site to be determined.