Make no mistake: D-I winner will likely be one with fewer errors
Stars and Stripes October 27, 2023
URUMA, Okinawa – One common denominator that applied to the two games Kadena and Kubasaki played against each other this season: Mistakes played a key role in the outcomes.
-- The Dragons upended the Panthers 34-22 at Kadena in the season opener on Sept. 8, a game in which Kadena gave up two fumbles and two interceptions. Three of the turnovers led to Kubasaki points.
-- Kadena replied in kind four weeks later, 32-7 on Oct. 6 at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium. Austin Lutz of the Panthers returned an interception for a score and Ethan Ferch recovered two fumbles for Kadena.
It’s a matter of which team takes better care of the football, coaches of both teams said Thursday, two days before kickoff of the Far East Division I football championship game.
“We are still looking introspectively at the whole thing,” said coach Sergio Mendoza of the host Panthers, who won five straight games after dropping the opener.
Even so, “we haven’t put four good quarters of football together the whole season,” Mendoza said. “Commitment, accountability and responsibility to each other for 48 minutes.”
The second meeting between the teams saw Kubasaki “make mistakes and they (Panthers) took full advantage,” said coach Tony Alvarado of the Dragons, who finished 4-2, second behind Kadena in the regular season. “Ultimately, we have to minimize our mistakes.”
Panthers senior running back Jeremiah Drummer ran for four touchdowns in the second matchup. “We have to shut him down, but to do that, we need to keep our eye on (Kadena’s) offensive line,” Alvarado said. “It will come down to who wins the interior.”
In the teams’ first meeting, the PCS Plane spoke volumes, as junior quarterback Trajon Weaver accounted for all five touchdowns and 247 yards total offense in the Dragons’ triumph.
Whether the Panthers can be more aggressive on both sides of the ball, communicating with each other better and being 100 percent committed to one another will be key for Kadena, Mendoza said.
“If we can do that, then we’ve won no matter what the score is,” Mendoza said.
Kadena remains the Pacific leader in Division I football titles with seven in 12 championship game appearances. Kubasaki has two – one of them came 10 years ago against the Panthers at Habu Field.