CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — When all seemed lost for the Kadena Panthers, Scott Knutson picked a perfect time to use his head.
Held scoreless until Monday’s Okinawa High School Athletic Association showdown, Knutson knocked in a pair of goals on headers, including one off a corner kick by Aaron Zendejas in the closing seconds as Kadena tied Kubasaki 3-3 in the teams’ second meeting of the season.
“It was a great game. It was quite a battle,” second-year Panthers coach Sue Fitzpatrick said.
The tie came 10 days after the Panthers fell 4-1 to Kubasaki (1-1-1) in their OHSAA opener.
John Richmond had the other goal for Kadena (1-2-1), offsetting Kevin Ware’s penalty kick and goals by Josh Kiser and Joe Paul.
“It’s just a great game whenever we play,” Fitzpatrick said.
The clubs have dominated the four Class AA Far East tournaments — winning two each — since the event’s inception in 1998. The Dragons, with eight freshmen on their 15-player roster, have managed a victory and tie against a Kadena club laden with seniors this spring. Round 3 is slated for April 18 at Kadena.
Kubasaki head coach Butch Spain feels that Kadena has controlled the tempo in each of their two matches “with great ball control and midfield play.”
“It was a great game for them, very technical and precise passing,” Spain said. “The Dragons lumbered forward. We still have a lot further to go.”
The coach is encouraged by the Dragons’ early efforts against the Panthers.
Historically, the team that’s lost the OHSAA season series has gone on to win the Class AA title. That appears to bode well for Kadena, which can only tie the series now.
“I’ll go along with that,” Fitzpatrick said.