Times are changing for football teams at Robert D. Edgren of Japan, Guam High and Korea’s Osan American.

For years they have served as their leagues’ bottom-feeders, but this season they are clawing their way up.

The Eagles and Panthers are 2-2 halfway through their league seasons, and the Cougars are 1-1, having rebounded from a season-opening loss to Seoul American with a shutout of Taegu American.

More than ability and talent, coaches of the three teams say, it’s mind-set that has contributed to the turnaround from 2003, when Edgren finished 1-7, and 2002, when Guam High went 1-5 and Osan 0-6.

“When you get it in your head that losing is just part of the whole thing, you just lose,” said Tom Hildreth, who took over a Guam High program that was 9-28 entering the 2003 season but has gone 6-5-1 since. “These kids are starting to feel they can win. They’re really excited about this.”

“They believe in each other and the system enough that they’re not going to fold,” added Jim Burgeson, whose freshman-laden Eagles lost their opener 56-7 to five-time champion Yokota, then won two games and led 2003 runner-up Nile C. Kinnick 20-12 before fading 28-20 last Friday.

“They’re going to play the full 48 minutes, the whole way. I’ve seen the past couple of weeks, they’re not in awe” of their opponents. “They feel they can play with anybody.”

For the first time since Seoul American abandoned its split-squad format after the 2001 season and began playing as one team, the Cougars will enter their Oct. 16 game against the Falcons on the heels of a victory.

“Three years now, we’ve opened up with Seoul and we’ve never played them coming off a win,” said coach Tony Alvarado, whose Cougars — who’ve never beaten the Falcons in five tries — throttled Taegu American 26-0 Saturday thanks to a 327-yard, four-TD performance by senior back Terry Stephens.

“With the way we’ve played this last weekend,” Alvarado said, “gaining some confidence and some steam, I think it’s what they need to break that streak.”

Those are the types of teams nobody wants to play, Yokota coach Tim Pujol said, simply because they’re at the edge of becoming good and could create problems for league front-runners.

That Edgren “almost knocked off Kinnick last week got the attention of my players,” Pujol said. “They’re a dangerous team to play.”

He said coach Burgeson and his staff “have done a great job, coaching them in the fundamentals, preparing them. They may be young, but they’re not to be underestimated.”

Yokota makes the long bus ride to Misawa Air Base to face Edgren, while Kinnick travels Friday to Atsugi Naval Air Facility to play Zama American.

Guam High, meanwhile, plays a rare night game at Andersen Air Force Base against John F. Kennedy. Osan American has the week off before traveling to Seoul American; the Falcons host Taegu American on Saturday.

And on Okinawa, the league-leading Kadena Islanders play the third-place Kadena Buccaneers, while the second-place Kubasaki Samurai take on the last-place Kubasaki Shogun.

In past years, when one of those on-the-cusp teams would enter a game on an emotional high, only to have a rock-solid league-leader crush them with a highlight-reel play, heads would hang and shoulders would drop.

“In the past, if anything went wrong, we were done,” Burgeson said, adding that is what happened in the loss to Yokota. “But that’s changing.”

Hildreth feared the same thing would happen when the Panthers opened by losing 37-0 to Father Duenas Memorial.

“But we came back,” he said.

He feels that Saturday’s game, against a 2-2 JFK squad that also is rebounding from a few seasons in the doldrums could serve as a “turning point” in his team’s season.

“This will be a major deciding factor for us,” Hildreth said. “We’ve told them, winning is something you can do. It’s not something that just happens. And this team is right at the edge.”

Being at the edge is only the start.

“We’re on the way, but until we beat one of the big dogs, we’re still on the way,” Burgeson said. “It was definitely a feather in the cap to beat Zama (14-12 on Sept. 18), one of the bigger schools. But we need to beat a Kinnick or a Yokota to truly be a contender.”

Alvarado said he’d like to see his team eliminate mistakes such as a pair of personal-foul penalties that kept two Falcons scoring drives alive in their first meeting.

“Winning teams don’t make those mistakes,” he said. “Those mistakes make us look like the same old Osan. And we need to get out of that. The talent, work ethic and potential is there. If we could stop making those mistakes, we could play with anyone.”

Dave Ornauer's high school football report

The Top Ten

The Top Ten teams in the Stars and Stripes’ 2004 Far East high school football ratings, with records through Oct. 2, points and last 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. Father Duenas (Guam) 4-0 448 2

3. Kadena Islanders (Okinawa) 3-0 440 3

4. Seoul American 1-0 420 4

5. Nile C. Kinnick (Japan) 3-1 392 8

6. Kubasaki Samurai (Okinawa) 2-1 380 5

7. Simon Sanchez (Guam) 3-1 376 —

8. Guam High 2-2 372 —

9. John F. Kennedy (Guam) 2-2 368 6

10. Robert D. Edgren (Japan) 2-2 364 7

Week 5 grid honors

Osan American — Terry Stephens 327 yards, four touchdowns, 13 carries, 25.15 yards per carry; sets Korea single-game rushing record, fourth-highest single-game total in Pacific history. Sam Godwin 8 1/2 tackles.

Taegu American — Mychal McGee 121 yards total offense (54 yards, nine carries; 5-for-8, 67 yards passing). Sidney Washington eight tackles.

Guam High — Joey Chop 102 yards, three touchdowns, 13 carries. Dustin Lawson 143 yards total offense (61 yards, 11 carries; 82 yards, three catches).

Robert D. Edgren — Jacques Moton 95-yard interception-return touchdown, seven tackles, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery. Woody Carter 131 yards, one touchdown, 12 carries.

Nile C. Kinnick — Adam Krievs 192 all-purpose yards, one touchdown (124 yards, 24 carries; 20 yards, one touchdown, one catch; 48 yards, three returns). Jarvis Williams 104 yards, two touchdowns, 19 carries.

Yokota — Chris Roach 184 all-purpose yards, three touchdowns (134 yards, two touchdowns, 13 carries; 50 yards, one touchdown, two returns). Shamarr Howell 109 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns (15 yards, one touchdown, four carries; 94 yards, one touchdown, two returns). Josh Cunningham 118 yards, one touchdown, seven carries.

Kadena Islanders — Keith Loving 299 all-purpose yards, four touchdowns (174 yards, three touchdowns, 21 carries; 125 yards, one touchdown, three returns). David McCowan 169 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns (115 yards, one touchdown, 16 carries; 54-yard interception-return touchdown).

Kubasaki Samurai — Desmond Jackson 174 all-purpose yards, one touchdown (43 yards, 14 carries; 131 yards, one touchdown, three returns). Lenard White 93 yards, one touchdown, 13 carries.

Kadena Buccaneers — Tyler Schmidt 159 yards total offense, three touchdowns (38 yards, one touchdown, 15 carries; 9-for-22, 121 yards, two touchdowns). Gary Wright two touchdown catches, one sack, one kick block. Darnell Womach 96 all-purpose yards (76 yards, 23 carries; 20 yards, two returns), one fumble recovery. Jeremy Galvez one sack, one fumble recovery.

Kubasaki Shogun — Rafael Mew 83 all-purpose yards, two touchdowns (19 yards, one touchdown, five carries; 2-for-4, 22 yards; 42 yards, one touchdown, two returns), one interception.

Midseason report card


Guam High (2-2, .500, 92 points for, 51 against, three regular-season games remaining): Senior Joey Chop does it on both sides of ball, five rushing and two interception-return touchdowns. Panthers have followed both losses with wins. Attitude makeover has team believing it can win. Grade: B+.


Yokota (4-0, 1.000, 152 points for, 13 against, four regular-season games remaining): Senior Chris Roach (843 all-purpose yards, 14 touchdowns, 74 touches) adding his legend to Yokota rushing lore. Defense still solid. Offensive line ironing out inexperience issues. Had close shave with Kinnick, 7-6 on Sept. 24, but still lords of Japan. Grade: A.

Nile C. Kinnick (3-1, .750, 98 points for, 33 against, four regular-season games remaining):Senior Adam Krievs (329 yards, one touchdown, 68 carries) has emerged as team’s quiet leader; dangerous weapons in senior Leonard Lynce (449 all-purpose yards, seven touchdowns) and junior Jarvis Williams (319 yards, four TDs, 48 carries) require close attention. Still has to get over Yokota hurdle, which Red Devils just missed. Grade: B+.

Robert D. Edgren (2-2, .500, 69 points for, 117 against, four regular-season games remaining): Youth movement appears to be paying dividends, in sophomore quarterback Woody Carter and freshmen Jacques Moton and Rickey Andersen. Followed first loss with two wins. Coach Jim Burgeson has this bunch believing. Grade: B.

Zama American (1-3, .250, 40 points for, 86 against, four regular-season games remaining): It took two games, but coach Ron Geist found an offensive weapon in fullback Chris Johnson, an efficient complement to speedy senior Donovan Nance. Trojans have potential to win out after opening with three straight losses. Grade: C+.


Seoul American (1-0, 1.000, 20 points for, 0 against, three regular-season games remaining): Offense can strike on the ground (five experienced backs) and in the air (QB Bruce Voelker), while senior Scott Tunis anchors a stingy defense. Only one game makes it too early to tell. Grade: Inc.

Osan American (1-1, .500, 26 points for, 20 against, two regular-season games remaining): Cougars gained huge momentum swing, thanks to 327-yard, four-TD performance Saturday by senior back Terry Stephens. Now, if they can just beat those pesky Falcons for the first time ever ... Grade: B.

Taegu American (0-1, .000, 0 points for, 26 against, three regular-season games remaining): Again, too early to tell since Warriors have just one game under their belt. Good offensive promise in Mychal McGee, Daniel Pressley, Kory Grammer and others. More bodies this season. Grade: Inc.

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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