H.S. football preview: Cougars leading Korea's surge
OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — On Nov. 5 at Falcons Field, the Seoul American Falcons accomplished what appeared almost impossible: They halted Japan powerhouse Yokota’s 36-game winning streak 13-10.
The same day in the Class A, Osan American Cougars rallied from a 14-0 deficit to edge Japan’s Robert D. Edgren in the title clash on Osan’s home field.
The victories raised the question: Is the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea league, now in its fourth season, a rising gridiron power?
“We were excited to see that come about,” Cougars coach Tony Alvarado said Wednesday, “for Korea football to get that recognition — us winning Class A and Seoul American knocking off the supposedly unbeatable Yokota.”
Alvarado spoke two days before DODDS-Korea’s season opener pitting Seoul American at Taegu American.
“Hopefully, both schools will be a force to be reckoned with come November” and the Far East playoffs, Alvarado said.
He’s optimistic about his Cougars not only of repeating as Class A champions but also gaining their first victory against Seoul American since 1996.
Alvarado’s Cougars boast the largest player contingent in school history. Of the 30 players at Wednesday’s practice, 19 were returners; 15 starters.
And they could be strong for years to come, Alvarado said. All but two of his 14 sophomores are sons of homesteading DOD contract employees, there for the long haul.
“That’s a big plus,” he said. “They’re still young” but “they’ll stick around, getting more comfortable with the system. A lot of guys got a lot of playing time last year. They’re stronger, wiser, not afraid to hit that hole.”
Leading the way for Osan will be senior Carlos Albaladejo, the reigning Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Year, plus durable sophomore back Will Rapoza and linebackers including sophomores Donny Keshel and Jesse Crockett.
“It may be the deepest linebacking corps we’ve ever had,” Alvarado said.
He said he won’t be satisfied just with beating Class A opposition, adding, “We’re looking to knock off a Class AA dog if we can. I’d like to feel our goal as a small school is to win every game, not just lose to Seoul American and beat the Class A schools.”
Seoul American, meanwhile, considers this a rebuilding season. Though a handful of key veterans return from the Falcons squad that upset Yokota, then lost 34-14 at Kubasaki in the Nov. 12 Class AA championship, youth abounds on coach Julian Harden’s roster.
“We have a huge gap between first-year players and experienced ones,” Harden said of a team led by senior back David Smalls and senior interior players Charles Jones and Clark Campbell. “We may do OK on the peninsula only because our opponents face the same dilemma but as far as Far East, it will depend on injuries and how much we can get out of our regular season.”
New Taegu American coach Tim McDaniel said his Warriors aren’t just rebuilding, they’re “beginning.” Youth is everywhere; not a single senior is on McDaniel’s roster and just six starters returned.
“Realistically, our chances in league and Far East look dim,” McDaniel said. “But the kids are working hard, slowly learning responsibility and some football, and we hope to give an honest effort in our contests.”
DODDS-Korea Football LeagueSchedule
Friday, Sept. 8
Seoul American vs. Taegu American at Kelly Field, Camp Walker, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 16
Osan American at Seoul American, 2 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22
Osan American vs. Taegu American at Kelly Field, Camp Walker, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30
Taegu American at Seoul American, 2 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 4
Seoul American at Osan American, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 14
Taegu American at Osan American, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 21
Osan American at Seoul American, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 28
Osan American vs. Taegu American at Kelly Field, Camp Walker, 2 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 4
Far East High School Class A championship, DODDS-Korea Class A champion at DODDS-Japan Class A champion, time and site to be determined
Far East High School Class AA semifinal, Seoul American at Guam High, time and site to be determined
Saturday, Nov. 11
Far East High School Class AA championship, Nov. 4 semifinal winners at Seoul American or Guam High, time to be determined
Team previewsSeoul American Falcons
Yongsan Garrison, South Korea
2005 record-5-1, .833, 141 points for, 62 points against, DODDS-Korea league champions; beat Yokota 13-10 in Far East Class AA semifinal on Nov. 5; lost at Kubasaki 34-14 in Far East Class AA championship on Nov. 12.
Head coach-Julian Harden, fourth season, overall record 13-1, three straight league championships.
Base defense-5-man fronts.
Key returnees-David Smalls, Sr., TB-S-PR-KR; Daniel Burns, Jr., QB; Charles Jones, Sr., FB-LB; Clark Campbell, Sr., C-DE; Quintez Johnson, Jr., DB-TB.
Key newcomers-Chris Churchwell, Jr.; Luke Dorough, Jr.; Demetries Johnson, Fr.
Strengths-Strong core of veterans, good size.
Drawbacks-Lack of speed, depth, experience across board.
Outlook-Rebuilding. Big difference in playing level between veterans and first-year players. Harden expects to do well within the league but in the Far East Class AA playoffs, much will depend on injuries and how team grows during the regular season.
Osan American Cougars
Osan Air Base, South Korea
2005 record-3-2, .600, 77 points for, 105 points against, second in DODDS-Korea League. Won Far East Class A championship 16-14 over Robert D. Edgren on Nov. 5.
Head coach-Tony Alvarado, fourth season, overall record 7-6.
Returning starters-15 (6 offense, 9 defense).
Base offenses-I, pro.
Key returnees-Carlos Albaladejo, Sr., TB-SS-OLB-P-PK; Will Rapoza, So., TB-CB; Chung Yim, Sr., DE; Jesse Crockett, So., MLB; Donny Keshel, Jr., OLB.
Key newcomers-A.J. Pratt, Jr., FS-TE; Patrick Thompson, So., QB; Abel May, Jr., CB.
Strengths-Depth, biggest group Alvarado’s ever fielded, experienced starting corps.
Drawbacks-Still plenty of youth with much room to develop.
Outlook-Contending. Not only a strong bet to repeat its Class A title but might challenge Seoul American. And with many players the sons of homesteading contractor employees, Cougars may be strong for years to come.
Taegu American Warriors
Camp George, South Korea
Key returnees-Sam Davis, Jr., G; Stephen Scott, Jr., RB-DB; Darion Hancock, So., OT-DT; Angel Hickman, Jr., DB; Andrew Davenport, Jr., G; Torian Whetstone, Jr., DB.
Key newcomer-Randall Daniels, Jr., RB-QB-DB.
Strengths-Much ability among small core of returning veterans.
Drawbacks-Young, thin in numbers and experience across the board.
Outlook-Beginning-rebuilding. Warriors have yet to win a regular-season game since DODDS-Korea’s inception four years ago and with youth and lack of experience, this season could end resembling the previous three.