Squinting into the late-afternoon sun, coach Fred Bales put his linemen through a blocking and tackling drill at Kubasaki High School on Okinawa’s Camp Foster. One by one, players bounced twice off a seven-man blocking sled and tackled a teammate standing to the side.

The look on Bales’ face showed this was serious business. Nine weeks of preparation and practice plus five weeks of controlled scrimmages brought Kubasaki and arch-rival Kadena to this point: two days from taking the field to begin deciding the island’s representative in the new DODDS-Pacific Far East playoffs.

Out on the road, a car rolled by, its window down. “Go Dragons! Whoo-hoo!” a voice shouted.

Bales flashed a hint of a smile.

“That tells me good things,” he said. “We have a high school football program, and the interest is up. That’s an example of it.”

Such yells of support were not commonplace on Okinawa the past five years. From 1999 until last season, split-squad teams — Kubasaki’s Shogun and Samurai and Kadena’s Buccaneers and Islanders — squared off to determine the Okinawa Activities Council’s champion.

That, said Bales and Kadena coach Brian Wetherington, left students, teachers, parents and community wrestling with which team to support. Meanwhile, six-time JFL champion Yokota, which outscored Okinawa 180-37 in the past four Rising Sun bowls, enjoyed the full support of its school, base and community.

Bales, also Kubasaki’s athletics director, and Kadena AD Robert Bliss lobbied to get their full squads to play in the Far East playoffs.

“It’s nice to see them rekindle the old Panthers and Dragons teams,” Wetherington said. “Both communities are excited. Now everbody’s behind one team.”

The Panthers visit the Dragons for Kubasaki’s homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium. Kadena then hosts Kubasaki for the Panthers’ homecoming at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at Kadena Air Base’s McDonald Stadium.

If the teams split those contests, they’ll play a third game, host to be determined by point differential in the first two games, at 7 p.m. Oct. 28.

The best-of-three series winner faces Guam High in one Far East Class AA semifinal on Nov. 5.

Knowing a Far East banner awaits at rainbow’s end has added a dimension of “spirit, determination and motivation” to the two teams, Bales said. “There’s a new intensity. ”

It remains to be seen if this system that Bales, as OAC president, was tasked with drawing up last spring will stay in place.

Some observers have expressed concern that nine weeks of practice for a best-of-three series is too much preparation for too little play.

Bales said, “This is uncharted territory. … I’m sure there will be some tweaks we’ll sit down and talk about after the season.”

High school football standings and schedule


W L Pct. PF PA

Amer. School In Japan 4 0 1.000 99 20

Yokota 4 0 1.000 178 14

Nile C. Kinnick 3 3 .500 69 103

Robert D. Edgren 1 4 .200 35 145

Zama American 0 5 .000 25 125

Friday, Oct. 14

Nile C. Kinnick at Zama American, 7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 15

Yokota at American School In Japan, 1 p.m.

DODDS-Korea League

W L Pct. PF PA

Seoul American 2 0 1.000 49 18

Osan American 1 1 .500 39 52

Taegu American 0 2 .000 29 47

Saturday, Oct. 15

Osan American at Seoul American, 2 p.m.

Okinawa Activities Council

W L Pct. PF PA

Kadena 0 0 .000 0 0

Kubasaki 0 0 .000 0 0

Friday, Oct. 14

Kadena at Kubasaki, 7 p.m.

Dave Ornauer's Top 10 and Week 7 outlook

The Top Ten teams in the Stars and Stripes 2005 Far East high school football ratings, with records through Oct. 1, points and week’s rating, as compiled by Dave Ornauer of Stars and Stripes sports. Ratings are based primarily on teams' win-loss records, quality of wins, strength of overall roster, point differential, team and individual statistics, strength of schedule and strength of leagues. Maximum rating is 500 points:

Record Pts Pvs

1. Yokota (Japan) 4-0 456 1

2. George Washington (Guam) 5-0 448 2

3. Father Duenas (Guam) 4-1 424 3

(tie) Seoul American 2-0 424 4

5. American School In Japan 4-0 420 5

6. Kadena (Okinawa) 0-0 412 6

7. Kubasaki (Okinawa) 0-0 396 7

8. John F. Kennedy (Guam) 4-2 388 8

9. Simon Sanchez (Guam) 3-3 364 9

10. Nile C. Kinnick (Japan) 3-3 360 --

Week 7 outlook

Nile C. Kinnick 13, Zama American 10

Kadena 16, Kubasaki 14

Father Duenas 14, John F. Kennedy 11

Seoul American 17, Osan American 14

Yokota 18, American School In Japan 16

George Washington 21, Simon Sanchez 7

Last week: 5-0, 1.000.

Season: 26-6, .813.

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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