Far East Class AA football preview: Kadena, Seoul American showcase contrasting styles
Stars and Stripes November 14, 2009
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Few, except maybe the Falcons themselves, might have seen coming Seoul American’s 15-0 Class AA semifinal shocker Tuesday over Guam High.
"I would have been surprised had it gone any other way," insisted coach Alan Morton, whose Falcons, 1-5 during the regular season compared to the Panthers’ 6-2 ledger, engineered perhaps the greatest upset in DODEA Pacific Far East football playoff history.
It also propelled the defending champion Falcons into yet another Class AA title clash with Kadena. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. Saturday at Kubasaki High School’s Mike Petty Stadium. Seoul beat Kadena 12-6 in overtime in 2006 and 22-21 last November in Class AA title tilts at Falcon Field.
To Morton, the regular-season record mattered little compared to the importance of preparing for the Class AA playoffs. And the win-loss record was misleading when one considers the Falcons were outscored by just 7.1 points per game.
Morton credits the strength of the DODEA Korea League, with 2005 Class A champion Osan American and current Class A runner-up Daegu American, for that. Like a good prize fighter, Morton said, "we’ve had the good fortune of having the best sparring partners. They made us better.
"We hold the belt. We’re defending the belt. I would rather take my lumps in season and come down here and win than to put up gaudy numbers in season, then come here and get the bricks beat out of us."
Just as Morton feels his Falcons haven’t reached their peak, coach Sergio Mendoza says his Panthers "haven’t played our best game yet."
"We’re healthy, we’re clicking on all cylinders, we haven’t gone deep into our playbook yet," Mendoza said. "It’s good to have another opponent to be able to give it a shot."
Saturday’s game will showcase contrasting styles, the big, beefy Falcons with their running-back triad of Demetrius Johnson, Jamal James and Han Yoo against the swift, speedy Panthers, with juniors Shariff Coleman, Thomas McDonald and Lotty Smith hauling the mail.
"Obviously, they have the size advantage and they have good fundamentals of football," Mendoza said of the Falcons. "I’m expecting a tough game."
"Kadena has a great club, good-looking athletes, very fast and talented and they play together," Morton said, adding that he feels the key matchup will be Seoul’s defense against Kadena’s backs.
"We’ll play patient, sound, fundamental football," Morton said. "Anybody who competes with us needs to be prepared to be hit hard. Defense is where my heart is. Defense will determine if we win."
Mendoza also likes the fact that Kadena is playing on Okinawa, where the Panthers beat the Falcons 27-10 in the 2007 Class AA semifinal.
"It’s always good to be in your own homes and your own beds," he said. "I’m excited. The kids have worked hard to get to this point again."