Weather permitting, Zama and ASIJ hope to unleash attacks
Stars and Stripes October 26, 2023
URUMA, Okinawa – Few things can handcuff two skillful, offensive-minded football teams the way a drenching game-long downpour can.
That was pretty much the size of things on Sept. 22, when Division II-leading Zama (7-0) managed but one touchdown, while the Trojans defense held American School In Japan (5-1) scoreless in a 7-0 victory.
Both teams may be thanking their stars that the weather outlook for Friday’s D-II final, Mustangs at Trojans, 6 p.m. kickoff, calls for a clear, crisp evening at Barry Huitema Memorial Field.
And coaches of both teams said they’re looking forward to playing a more productive brand of football without the rain holding them back.
“We’re kind of anticipating without the rain to be able to show out just a little more,” said coach Scott Bolin of the Trojans.
This will be the first D-II final since 2019; the last three were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Friday’s showdown will be between two teams fielding a blend of big, beefy players in the interior, blocking for cadres of skilled quarterbacks, quick running backs and elusive receivers.
Zama leads Division II in scoring offense and defense, 209 points scored and 37 allowed in seven games, while the Mustangs (138 and 41) are second in each category.
Key to the Mustangs’ fortunes are senior running back Noa Grasse and an unexpected rising star in freshman Shou Murakami-Moses, the starting safety who had five interceptions in two games in mid-October.
Sophomore Will Schmiedel quarterbacks the Trojans, with speedsters such as Hiroki Davis coming out of the backfield and receivers including tight end Caleb Schmiedel – Will’s older brother – and Jeremiah Georges among passing targets.
“We have to be physical,” ASIJ coach and athletics director Tim Jacobsson said. “We have to run our stuff, stay focused, stay disciplined, but the most important thing is physicality. Across the board, we have to be physical.”
Taking care of the football and running plays as designed will be key for the Trojans, Bolin said.
“We have the right ingredients,” he said. “We just need to execute. Don’t make mistakes, win the turnover battle, execute our plays, be consistent, play clean ball throughout and when openings come, take advantage of them.”
Zama is chasing its fourth D-II title; the last came in 2019, just before the COVID pandemic, when the Trojans beat Matthew C. Perry 47-13 on their home field. ASIJ holds the 2016 Division I title; the Mustangs have played D-II in recent years.
“It’s going to be a good game,” Bolin said. “We’re excited.”