Two years since their inception, one alluring charm — and one major drawback for most teams — remains in the DODDS-Pacific Far East High School football playoffs: the air of mystery.
Only once prior to this season had teams engaged in a playoff rematch, last year’s Class A championship game, in which defending champion Osan American lost 23-0 at Robert D. Edgren. The Cougars edged the Eagles 16-14 in 2005 at Osan.
The Eagles will step back into the unknown zone on Saturday, when they visit Taegu American with the Class A title again on the line. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. at newly carpeted Kelly Field on Camp Walker.
“It takes you out of your comfort zone,” Taegu coach Ken Walter said of facing an unknown opponent.
Most teams don’t exchange game films, nor is it within most budgets to fly from place to place to scout potential opponents. A phone call from Walter to Osan coach Tony Alvarado might reveal a few useful hints, but only of a team Alvarado played last year.
“It makes it interesting,” Edgren coach Chris Waite said of such matchups, “but a little familiarity with an opponent brings a better brand of football. If we exchanged tapes or scouted each other, you’d have a more competitive game.”
Also heading into a contest of unknown elements are Yokota and Guam High, a Panthers vs. Panthers Class AA semifinal at 7 p.m. Saturday at Naval Station Guam’s Blue Jacket Field.
The other Class AA semifinal contains some semblance of familiarity — Seoul American travels to Kadena on Okinawa for a rematch of last year’s Class AA title game. Seoul American won that one 12-6 in overtime. Kickoff on Saturday is at 7 p.m. at Kadena’s McDonald Stadium.
Waite said he’d had a premonition last season about the type of offense run by Osan when he saw Carlos Albaladejo and Abel May racking up 100-yard totals.
“That led me to believe they were running a Wing-T or a double wing,” Waite said, and his belief proved true, as Osan ran a double wing.
One might try to guess what Taegu is running (Walter’s Warriors use a multiple I and wing set), but all anybody can do is “play whatever is put in front of you,” Waite said.
That will mean Taegu dealing with the likes of shifty Edgren seniors Zach Latimore and Jacque Moton, and the Eagles trying to shut down the Warriors’ dangerous senior tandem of Antonio Harris and Angel Hickman.
“All we can do is get ready,” Waite said. “If I see something wacky that we’ve not seen, I’ll call a timeout and make some adjustments. There are only so many variations you’ll see. You get it on the field and just get after them.”
Whichever team “makes the best adjustments as the game goes on” is the one that wins such a battle, Walter said.
“We’ll work on getting sharp with our plays and formations,” he said. “You can only prepare so much for an unknown. We have to focus on what we can control, and that’s ourselves.”
While Yokota views Guam High as an unknown, coach Tim Pujol thinks that Guam High assistant coach Jacob Dowdell, who used to be stationed at Yokota, has a pretty good read on the Panthers.
“Nothing’s changed for us,” Pujol said of three-headed attack featuring Anthony McNeill, Tony Presnell and Derick Seward. “They’re going in with a good idea of what we have. He’ll know everything about us.”
“It’s been two football years since I’ve seen them,” he said, adding that he knew quite a few Panthers in a ministry he ran at Yokota. “The brand of football they play up there is different from what we face here on a daily basis. I know they’ll be prepared.”
Though Seoul American knows Kadena’s system, the Panthers “have a whole new set of talent that we’ve not seen” Falcons coach Julian Harden said of new Kadena backs Ernest Carr and Roosevelt Payne.
“They have to have a decent line, running backs, a quarterback. There are no loopholes.”
In a game like that when many of the faces have changed, “you focus on what is known,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said.
“They have good coaching, they have a good tradition. They’re going to come to play football. We have respect for all playoff teams. We’re not taking anything for granted.”
Playoff team capsules
Seoul American Falcons, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea
Record-5-0. Won fifth straight Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea league championship. Defending Far East Class AA champion.
Head coach-Julian Harden, fifth season. Overall record 25-2.
Base offense-Split-back pro set.
Base defense-5-man fronts.
Key players-Daniel Burns, Sr., QB; Marquintez Johnson, Sr., SB; Joe McLean, Jr., TE; Justin Stokes, Jr., L; Daniel Ayersman, Sr., DT; Luke Durrough, Sr., DE; Kawika Feleciano, Sr., LB.; Trinidai Stansel, So., RB; Robert Trent, Sr., RB; Demetrius Johnson, So., DB.
Strengths-Some size, player coachability and smarts.
Drawbacks-Lack of experience, quickness and speed.
Kadena Panthers, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
Record-2-0. Two-time defending Okinawa Activities Council champion.
Head coach-Sergio Mendoza, second season. Overall record 5-1, .833.
Base offense-Full-house power, University of Missouri-style spread.
Base defense-8-man variable fronts.
Key players-Stanley Schrock, So., QB-WR-S; Julius Crepeau, Sr. LB; Jordan Ray, Jr., OL; Chris Latham, Jr. OL; Jon Wright, Sr., QB 5-for-11, 176 yards, 1 touchdown); Vince Coronado, Sr., FB-LB (1 interception-return touchdown, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack); Ernest Carr, Sr., RB; Alex Weaver, Sr., RB; Luis Duncan, Jr.; Roosevelt Payne, So., RB (102 yards, 1 touchdown, 17 carries; 131 yards, 1 touchdown, 2 catches; 63 yards, 3 returns); Ernest Carr, Sr., RB (307 yards, 4 touchdowns, 35 carries).
Strengths-Versatility on offense, go-get-’em attitude on defense. Work ethic, unity.
Drawbacks-Lack of experience.
Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill, Guam
Head coach-Brandon Miller, first season.
Basic defense-5-man fronts.
Key players-Paul Salgado, Sr., OT-NG; Anthony Barfield, Sr., DE; Tim Hernandez, Sr., MLB; Chris Brown, Jr., WR-DB; Myron Marshall, Jr., DB; Paul Cramins, Jr., QB-FS; Jose Cramins, Jr., OG-MLB; R.J. Bryand, So., FB; Ryan Ford, Sr., OT-DE-K.
Strengths-Defense, defense and defense; held league-leading Father Duenas Memorial to season-low eight points last Friday. Ford, a well-decorated veteran of DODDS-Europe while at Rota, Spain, leads that unit; experienced returning starting core; size; skills-positions experience.
Drawbacks-Inconsistent offensive line play. Lack of continuity among players in DODDS’ transient environment, compared to indigenous populations on local Guam teams.
Yokota Panthers, Yokota Air Base, Japan
Record-9-0, JFL champions.
Head coach-Tim Pujol, ninth season. Overall record, 78-8.
Key players-Anthony McNeill, Sr., RB-DB (1,140 yards, 14 touchdowns, 176 carries, leads Pacific in all categories following 1,706-yard, 229-carry 2006 season); Andrew Conkling, Jr., OL-DL; Josh Lehnerd, Jr., OL-LB; DeEric Harvin, So., QB-DB (28-for-57, 562 yards, 11 touchdowns); Bob Scott, Sr., OL-DL; Riki Byrnes, Sr., K-P, TE-DB (196 yards, 7 touchdowns, 11 catches); Phillip Williams, Sr., DE-TE (174 yards, 4 touchdowns, 5 catches); Rainey Daily, So., FB-LB; Tony Presnell, Jr., RB-LB (789 yards, 9 touchdowns, 87 carries); David Dezell, Sr., OL-DL; Chris Castillo, Sr., OL-DL; Aaron Sargent, Sr., SE-DB-RB; D.J. Roberts, So., OL-DL; Derick Seward, Fr., FL-DB (538 yards, 6 touchdowns, 49 carries).
Strengths-Continuity in program, coaching, some returning depth, versatility in offensive weaponry; can run three different backs and pass consistently.
Drawbacks-Lack of overall depth, physical size; only one player, Castillo, weighs more than 180 pounds.
Edgren Eagles, Misawa Air Base, Japan
Record-4-3, Defending Class A champions.
Head coach-Chris Waite, second season. Overall record 8-7, .533.
Key players-Clarence Terry, Jr., L; Dionte Sifuentes, Sr., L; Drew Holder, Jr., TE; Zach Latimore, Sr., QB; Andrew Blankenship, Sr., FB; Kevin McDonald, Sr., TE-QB; Josh McDonald, So., TB; Kevin Radford, So., LB; Kenneth Radford, So., E.; Jacque Moton, Sr., TB (played for Eagles in 2005, spent last school year in States); Zach Keister, So., G; Luke Nelson, Jr., LB; Brandon Massie, So., PK.
Strength-Experienced core, tenacity on defense, dangerous play of Latimore, Moton at skills positions.
Drawbacks-Lack of depth across the board.
What Edgren brings to the table (from Yokota coach Tim Pujol, who beat Edgren 13-12 and 31-14 this season)-Multiple offensive weapons. Diverse. They have a lot of people who can hurt you. On the defensive side, they’re hard hitting, they blow up blockers very well and their front seven and front eight are coming at you from many different directions. We thought it was a real challenge for our line to handle their pressure. They’re like a wild animal on defense. They have some very tough bull runners who’ll get yards after first contact and they have speed guys in Moton and Latimore. You can’t focus on one person; it’s not a one-man show any more. And you put Moton and Zach back to take kicks, pick your poison. That’s a tough thing to deal with. Massie in the kicking game has paid off for them. Taegu’s going to have its hands full.
Taegu American Warriors, Camp George, South Korea
Record-3-2, First appearance in Class A championship game.
Head coach-Ken Walter, first season.
Base offense-I, wing.
Base defense-5-3, 4-2.
Key players-Angel Hickman, Sr., RB-DB; Anthony Harris, Sr., RB-LB; Sam Davis, Sr., L; Daniel Garcia, Sr., TE-DE; Jeff Wojtonic, Sr., T; Richard Downey, Sr., LB; Chester Logan, Sr., DB; Andrew Davenport, Sr., DB; Mike Vazquez, Sr., OL; Clinton Kim, Sr., C-DE; Phillip Cox, Jr., LB-FB; Frank Wright, Jr., LB-FB; Trey Griffin, Fr., QB; Chris Ford, So., FB-DB; David Martinez, So., QB-DB.
Strengths-Quickness off the ball, tenacity on defense, dangerous play of Hickman and Harris, biggest group of seniors the school has had, leadership, conditioning, preparation.
What Taegu brings to the table (from Seoul American coach Julian Harden, who beat Taegu 19-12 and 3-0)-They’re not a big team. But you can’t assess the team by their size. They’re small, but don’t underestimate them. They have a never-say-die mentality, a tenacity, a “last man standing” thing. They have speed and quickness. They’re a well-coached team. Their defense is their strength. Defense wins championships. They’re really quick on the outside. Maybe you can get them by going up the middle, but they’ll make some adjustments and give you a different look. Harris and Hickman, they’re quick. You can slow them down, but you won’t be able to shut them down. It’s going to boil down to the team that makes the least amount of mistakes.
Standings and schedules
W L Pct. PF PA
x-Father Duenas 8 1 .889 233 44
x-Simon Sanchez 7 2 .778 137 96
x-George Washington 7 3 .700 164 99
x-Guam High 4 6 .400 75 98
John F. Kennedy 2 7 .222 34 164
Southern 0 9 .000 57 199
x-clinched Interscholastic Football League playoff berth
George Washington 2, Guam High 0, forfeit
Saturday, Nov. 3
John F. Kennedy at Southern, 10 a.m.
Father Duenas vs. Simon Sanchez at Ramsey Field, John F. Kennedy H.S., Upper Tumon, 7 p.m.
End Regular Season
Far East playoffs
Saturday, Nov. 3
Class A championship
Edgren vs. Taegu American at Kelly Field, Camp Walker, South Korea, 2 p.m.
Class AA semifinals
Yokota vs. Guam High at Blue Jacket Field, Naval Station “Big Navy,” Guam, 7 p.m.
Seoul American vs. Kadena at McDonald Stadium, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 10
Class AA championship
Yokota/Guam High at Seoul American/Kadena, site and time TBD
The Top Ten
The Top Ten teams in the Stars and Stripes' 2007 Far East high school football ratings, with records through Oct. 27, points and last week’s rating, as compiled by Dave Ornauer of Stars and Stripes sports. Ratings are based on teams' win-loss records, quality of wins, strength of roster, schedule and leagues, point differential and team and individual statistics. Maximum rating is 500 points:
Record Pts Pvs
1. Yokota (Japan) 9-0 484 1
2. Kadena (Okinawa) 2-0 476 2
3. Seoul American 5-0 472 3
(tie) Father Duenas (Guam) 8-1 472 4
5. George Washington (Guam) 7-3 440 5
6. Simon Sanchez (Guam) 7-2 436 6
7. Edgren (Japan) 4-3 420 7
(tie) Taegu American (S. Korea) 3-2 420 8
9. Zama American (Japan) 4-4 380 10
10. Guam High 4-6 372 9
Week 10 outlook
Guam-John F. Kennedy 8, Southern 7; Father Duenas Memorial 20, Simon Sanchez 13.
Class A championship-Robert D. Edgren 17, Taegu American 15.
Class AA semifinals-Yokota 22, Guam High 18; Kadena 25, Seoul American 17.
Last week-5-1, .833.
Week 9 grid honors
Yokota-Anthony McNeill 154 yards, 3 touchdowns, 24 carries; 54 yards, 2 returns; 8 yards, 1 catch. Tony Presnell 97 yards, 9 carries; 18 yards, 1 return.
Guam High-R.J. Bryand 9 tackles, 6 solo.
Taegu American-Angel Hickman 205 yards, 2 touchdowns, 18 carries; Antonio Harris 123 yards, 2 touchdowns, 15 carries.