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Seoul American and Kadena plan to stick with what has worked as they try to capture the Far East High School Class AA football championship — a healthy dose of running by their star backs.

That could mean a duel between Kadena’s Sean Shattuck (530 yards, six TDs on 39 carries) and Seoul American’s David Smalls (150 carries, 1,412 yards and a Pacific-leading 19 touchdowns).

The game could be a clash of titans, coaches said, between teams that haven’t met before Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff at Seoul American’s Falcon Field.

“It will be interesting,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said. “We haven’t faced them. They haven’t faced us. Another journey into the unknown. Seoul American has a reputation as a good, hard-nosed football team. You can’t prepare for everything.”

What little they do know, they’ve read and heard from people in other areas who have seen each team play. But even such sources, said Falcons coach Julian Harden, aren’t all that revealing.

“We only have snapshots of each other,” Harden said. “It will be even that way. Nobody has a distinct advantage, knowing what we know about each other.”

Saturday’s Class AA title game is the second since DODDS-Pacific instituted a football playoff last year.

Kadena qualified for the final game by beating eight-time Japan Football League champion Yokota 37-30, while Seoul American survived a 22-18 encounter at Guam High.

Because Seoul American lost last year’s Class AA final 38-8 at Kubasaki on Okinawa, “We have something to prove,” Falcons quarterback Daniel Burns said.

Last season, with only five games of preparation and losing running backs Smalls and Calvin Lesane to injury in the semifinal, “we weren’t ready for that level,” Harden said.

The Falcons enter Saturday’s game with a healthy Smalls, seven games under their belts and home-field advantage.

“We’re more ready this year,” Harden said. “David’s healthy and Dan got some success passing against Guam High. Playing at home will help. I don’t see our chances as being perfect, but they’re much better than last year.”

The Panthers have their own advantages. Though he doesn’t carry the ball as much as junior transfer Shattuck, senior back Jeff Morton is explosive in the open field. Quarterback Jon Robinson is a two-way threat out of Kadena’s spread-option offense.

And like the Falcons, Kadena proved it could win away from its home turf, outlasting Yokota in a game in which Shattuck ran wild and caught two TD passes.

“If everything’s clicking and we get all those kids involved, we can be a really strong team,” Mendoza said. “But Seoul American seems very capable of running and proficient at passing the ball, too.”

To cope with the unfamiliarity, Harden and Mendoza said their squads have to focus on what they do, rather than what the other team does.

“There’s an old expression, you ‘Dance with the one that brung ya,’” Mendoza said. “You have to stick with what you’ve been doing. And we’ll try to do what we’ve been doing. We’re going to try to do our best to just play Kadena football.”

“The premise is you see the guy across the line as yourself,” Harden said. “Kadena is a well-coached team, and to get that far, they have to have some outstanding athletes. It will be a dogfight.”

Kadena Panthers

Kadena Air Base, Okinawa

2006 record: 3-0, 1.000, 79 points for, 52 against. Won Okinawa Activities Council best-of-three championship series, 28-14 on Oct. 13 and 14-8 on Oct. 20. Won Class AA semifinal 37-30 on Nov. 4 at Yokota.

Head coach: Sergio Mendoza, first season, overall record 3-0; went 24-13 in four seasons at helm of Kadena Islanders during OAC's split-squad days, with one OAC championship.

Base offense: I.

Base defense: 5-3.

Key producer: Sean Shattuck, Jr., RB-LB, 530 yards, 6 touchdowns, 39 carries, 13.58 average yards per carry.

How to stop Kadena: Tim Pujol, coach, Yokota Panthers, 37-30 Class AA semifinal losers to Kadena on Nov. 4: “They have an excellent running game, good backs, good speed. They utilize their talent well. You have to try to commit defensively to limit the run and challenge or force them to throw the ball, force them out of their original gameplan and go with their Plan B. You can move the ball on them.”

Seoul American Falcons

Yongsan Garrison, South Korea

2006 record: Overall, 6-1, .833, 224 points for, 137 points against; league, 4-1, .800, 174 points for, 113 points against, DODDS-Korea Football League champion. Beat Guam High 22-18 in Class AA semifinal on Nov. 4.

Head coach: Julian Harden, fourth season, 19-2 overall record, four straight league championships.

Base offense: Multiple.

Base defense: 5-man fronts.

Key producer: David Smalls, Sr., RB, 1,412 yards, 19 touchdowns, 150 carries, 9.41 average yards per carry.

How to stop Seoul American: Tony Alvarado, coach, Osan American Cougars, 35-23 winners and 58-32 and 34-20 losers to the Falcons during the regular season: “Don’t let David Smalls break free ... It will take two or three guys to bring him down. You can’t just focus on the outside; keep him inside the tackles. Gang tackling. Team tackling. Don’t let him break that free one.”

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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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