KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – A quick look at the last three times Kadena faced Yokota and it might be easy to believe the latter stands little chance playing the former:

-- Shariff Coleman and Thomas McDonald shook off a slow start to combine for 254 yards and four touchdowns as Kadena blanked Yokota 35-0 at Yokota’s Bonk Field in an in-season inter-area contest.

-- The same twosome carved up Yokota’s defense for five touchdowns, McDonald’s three coming in the first quarter alone as Kadena walloped Yokota 55-6 in last November’s Far East Division I semifinal game.

-- Then, there was the 2007 Far East Division I football championship game at Kadena’s McDonald Stadium, when Brandon Harris turned the only four touches he had in the second half into touchdowns as Kadena routed Yokota 39-13 after trailing 13-12 at halftime.

But in no way is Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza thinking that his five-time Okinawa Activities Council champion Panthers will prevail with the greatest of ease Friday against the DODDS Japan and Kanto Plain champion version of Panthers under direction of coach Tim Pujol.

“There’s absolutely no way you can take Yokota for granted,” Mendoza said Tuesday, three days before Friday’s 2 p.m. kickoff of the second Division I title meeting between the two teams.

Mendoza and his assistants scouted Yokota on Oct. 22, when the Panthers lost 34-14 at American School In Japan.

Despite that thrashing, Mendoza feels Yokota will “come in and play really hard. They’ll be coached up. They’re the best Yokota team I’ve seen in years. We’re taking this game far more seriously than we’ve taken any game this season.”

Yokota (8-1) has outscored its foes 298-79 this season and, like Kadena with Coleman and McDonald, features its own running-back tandem in Devin Day, who leads the Pacific with 1,055 yards and 20 touchdowns, and Morgan Breazell, who has 599 yards and five TDs.

Still, Pujol and many other Pacific coaches say it’s a long shot that any team can match up with the blazing speed of Coleman (965 yards, 12 touchdowns) and McDonald (931 yards, 16 touchdowns).

“They’re explosive, dangerous, talented,” Pujol said of Kadena, whom he saw win 24-14 on Sept. 18 against a tenacious Zama American team.

Going back to that 55-6 thrashing his team suffered against Kadena, Pujol remarked about how Kadena “buzzed” through last year’s playoffs without throwing a pass or punting once, and with a defense that allowed just six points in two games.

“We can’t make too many mistakes and expect to win,” Pujol said. “We’re going to have to play very well to compete with those guys. They’re not going to give us many opportunities.”

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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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