Division II foes look to knock each other out of title chase
Stars and Stripes September 22, 2023
URUMA, Okinawa – For the teams in the hunt for berths in the DODEA-Pacific Division II football championship game Oct. 27, every game means something.
But nobody is looking that far ahead, or even close to it, say the coaches of the teams chasing the two title-game berths. All they’re concerned with are the teams directly in front of them.
That begins Friday, when American School In Japan (1-0) visits Zama (3-0); kickoff is at 6 p.m., with a forecast calling for heavy rain.
The next day, Matthew C. Perry (1-2) hosts Osan (2-1) for homecoming; forecast for that game is far better. Yokota (2-0), the other team in the hunt, has the week off.
“It’s a championship-level environment from here on out,” Trojans coach Scott Bolin said. “Every game is an equivalent of a championship. It sets the table for the end of the season.”
Zama has outscored its three foes thus far 99-14, but they’re facing a Mustangs team that opened by beating Osan 45-6 and has had a week off to prepare, following a game Sept. 9 against a Japanese team.
For that reason, “we’re not looking too far ahead,” Bolin said. “If we don’t take care of ASIJ, it doesn’t matter who’s after that.”
The Mustangs, too, aren’t looking beyond Friday, coach Tim Jacobsson said. “We’re focused on what’s coming up next,” he said. “They (Trojans) have some good athletes. Hopefully, the time we’ve put in has paid off.”
The Cougars rebounded from that defeat at ASIJ by downing Robert D. Edgren 30-15 a week ago at home, giving up just 85 yards of offense to the Eagles. Coach Tyler Greve says he “feels really good” about the direction Osan is headed.
“We’re learning how to win. They’re figuring it out,” Greve said.
Will the Cougars be a team that contends for the D-II title? “To be determined,” he said.
Though Yokota hosts Nile C. Kinnick in a junior varsity game Friday, several Panthers varsity players plan to head to Zama, according to coach Michael Woodworth.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Woodworth said of the multi-team chase for Division II title space. “I never thought in my second year as head coach that we would be possibly fighting for a championship. We’ll see how it plays out.”
In Division I, Kinnick (1-1) heads to Okinawa to face division-leading Kubasaki (2-0), while Kadena (1-1) visits Humphreys (0-2); each kickoff is at 6 p.m. Friday.
Meanwhile, DODEA-Japan’s cross country teams head to Ikego Heights Naval Housing Facility for a Saturday morning meet. DODEA-Korea’s three cross country units travel to Cheongna Dalton School in Incheon, also on Saturday morning.
On the volleyball courts, unbeaten E.J. King travels to Zama for a two-match weekend series that could decide the top seed in the Far East Division II Tournament Oct. 23-25 at Yokota. The Cobras tennis team also plays the Trojans, weather permitting.
Elsewhere in Japan, Yokota visits Perry and Edgren travels to Kinnick for tennis and volleyball.
Osan visits Seoul International for a Korea Blue Division volleyball match on Friday, while in the Red Division, Daegu hosts Dwight School of Seoul on Friday and travels to Korea International on Saturday.
In tennis on Friday, Osan visits Humphreys. The next day, the Cougars entertain Gyeonggi Suwon and the Blackhawks visit Seoul International for an inter-division friendly.