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Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils assistant coach Enrique Cruz, right, talks it over with player Preston Mahaffey after Mahaffey was cautioned for rough play during Friday's Japan Soccer League match at Ikego Heights Naval Housing Facility, Japan.

Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils assistant coach Enrique Cruz, right, talks it over with player Preston Mahaffey after Mahaffey was cautioned for rough play during Friday's Japan Soccer League match at Ikego Heights Naval Housing Facility, Japan. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

IKEGO HEIGHTS NAVAL HOUSING FACILITY, Japan — After arching his shot over the head of Robert D. Edgren goalkeeper Nathan Reineke and into the net, Go Yamada pointed a finger at longtime Nile C. Kinnick assistant coach Enrique Cruz and ran over to him.

“That one was for me?” Cruz asked.

Yamada nodded, then gave Cruz a hug — the last the two are likely to share, since Kinnick’s 9-0 victory over the Eagles on Friday was Cruz’s last game with the Red Devils.

Cruz, a master chief petty officer with Yokosuka Naval Base’s Naval Denter Center Far East, transferred Saturday to a new assignment in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I tried to stay, but I couldn’t,” said Cruz, whose departure flight was scheduled around the same time the Devils visited Zama American for another Japan Soccer League contest.

For Cruz, Friday’s victory over the Eagles capped four years of work with the Red Devils, who were winless the season before he arrived but third in the JSL the past two years. In 2001, Kinnick placed in the top six at the Class AA Far East Tournament.

“I’ve been watching these kids for years,” said Cruz, 42, of Detroit. “I’m going to miss the kids most of all.”

But he won’t be the only one feeling a loss.

“He’s been with me since my freshman year,” said Yamada, a senior striker. “He added that psychological state that we need, and he gave us the skills that we need. He will be missed by everybody on the team.”

While Cruz was bidding farewell, the man he assisted for two seasons, Nico Hindie, enjoyed a successful return on Friday, this time at the helm of the Lady Red Devils.

Kinnick’s Alexis Zukowski punched in two goals, and Robyn Hopp broke a 1-1 tie in the 44th minute by converting the team’s third penalty kick attempt in the 3-1 victory over Yokota.

“Missed two penalty kicks. Not good,” said Hindie. “But we played good enough to win.”

Hindie, 31, the son of Department of Defense Education Activity-Europe teachers at Rota Naval Station in Spain, spent five years at Kinnick before returning to Rota, the school he attended from kindergarten through graduation.

“You can’t go home again,” said Hindie, who taught second-graders at Rota. “Didn’t have the possibility of coaching, so I came back here. Gave up sunny Spain. Now, Japan’s my home.”

Hindie says he’s right where he wants to be — coaching.

“A lot of these kids are my old tennis athletes,” Hindie said. “They’re great kids. Everybody wants to go to Europe, and I love Spain, but there’s nothing like coaching a fantastic group of kids like these.”

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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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