YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The ever-shrinking U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League has lost another member, the Kadena Dragons.

Kadena, one of the league’s original teams, announced Wednesday it was dropping out and would join a planned Okinawa league sponsored by Marine Corps Community Services.

Kadena’s withdrawal reduces the USFJ-AFL membership to four — the Yokota Raiders, Atsugi White Dolphins, Misawa Marauders and Yokosuka Seahawks — from a league-high seven last year.

It also leaves the league without an Okinawa entry for the first time since 2000, when it was organized into its current structure.

The Dragons considered playing in both leagues, but “there would have been a conflict if we did both,” said Kadena coach William Cupp.

“I had to pick the league that would give us more games and keep us here,” Cupp said. “We have a history with the USFJ-AFL. We wanted to continue playing teams like Misawa and Yokosuka. But we’ll be playing football either way.”

First-year USFJ-AFL commissioner Kyle Rhodus was disappointed by the departure.

“It just so happened [MCCS] would start the season during ours and [Kadena] had to make a decision,” said Rhodus, who also serves as Yokosuka Naval Base’s athletic director. “I don’t blame them one bit.”

Rhodus said not having to schedule a game against an Okinawa team will make it easier for the remaining squads to fulfill their schedule.

Since 2000, 32 games, including the 2001 and ‘03 championships, were canceled because of duty commitments, transportation problems and weather.

“All four teams left are extremely dedicated. I don’t see the same volume of postponements and cancellations, except for weather or world events,” Rhodus said.

The new MCCS league, which would give Okinawa full-fledged command-sponsored football for the first time since 1989, would include four Marine Corps teams, the Ryukyu University Stingray and Kadena.

Sources told Stars and Stripes that MCCS officials have held several organizational meetings and league bylaws are being drafted along with a tentative fall schedule. No official announcement of the league’s formation has been made.

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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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