The new Far East high school playoff system marks another step in putting high school football under the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific umbrella.
Here are some answers to common questions about the playoff system:
Q. Why have a football playoff system?
A. Mainly in the interest of equity with other sports, which conduct DODDS-Pacific-sponsored Far East high school tournaments at the end of each season. Until 1999, football played by DODDS schools in the Pacific was entirely regional.
In 1999, Edgren was incorporated into the DODDS Japan Football League, and the Rising Sun Bowl All-Japan title game was inaugurated.
That pitted the JFL champion against the Okinawa Activities Council winner.
The new system includes all DODDS-Pacific teams competing for Class AA and Class A titles.
Q. How will the playoff system work?
A. After the regular season, the Class AA league champions will convene for a two-week playoff, with the semifinals scheduled Nov. 5. The JFL champion plays at Seoul American and the Okinawa champ goes to Guam High. The championship (Nov. 12,) will be at the site of the Okinawa-Guam winner. The Class A playoff will consist of a one-game championship, with Edgren playing either Taegu or Osan.
Q. What constitutes a large and small school?
A. Using an enrollment demarcation line of 360, the DODDS football-playing schools will be divided into Class AA and Class A pools.
Yokota, Kinnick and Zama in Japan, Seoul American in Korea, Guam High and Kadena and Kubasaki qualify as Class AA schools. Edgren in Japan and Taegu American and Osan American in Korea comprise the Class A pool.
Q. How will each of the leagues work?
A. The JFL will keep its current face, with Yokota, Edgren, Kinnick and Zama chasing regular-season honors. Yokota, Kinnick and Zama continue to play regular-season games against the American School In Japan for Kanto Plain bragging rights.
The highest finisher among Yokota, Kinnick and Zama in the JFL standings travels to Seoul American, the lone Class AA Korea school. Edgren, as the lone Japan small school, gets a free pass into the Class A title game.
Seoul, Taegu and Osan will retain their double round-robin regular-season schedule.
The Okinawa Activities Council’s football slate is similar to its pre-Rising Sun Bowl arrangement. Each school’s player pool is split into first and second teams, which will play a four-week preseason slate, entirely for developmental purposes.
Q. What happens if a school’s enrollment changes? What if, say, Zama’s enrollment falls below 360 and Edgren’s tops that?
A. According to DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council chair Don Hobbs, every football playing school’s enrollment will be evaluated each year and they’ll be placed in Class AA or Class A pools accordingly. The cutoff date for this year is Sept. 8.
Q. Has DODDS discovered any problems with the system thus far?
A. One difficulty, according to Hobbs, is planning travel. The JFL season ends Oct. 29, one week before the semifinal. Then, the team which wins the JFL-Seoul semifinal has to arrange passage to Guam or Okinawa. It’s a problem that can be overcome, Hobbs said.
Arranging the playoffs in neutral locations to ease that burden was considered, as is done by DODDS-Europe, which stages all four of its football championship games in one location. But while Europe locales are more easily accessible by ground transportation, travel in the Pacific is done almost entirely by air and at greater expense.