Kadena running back Jeremiah Drummer rushed 32 times for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers’ 35-20 Far East Division I triumph over Kubasaki.

Kadena running back Jeremiah Drummer rushed 32 times for 227 yards and four touchdowns in the Panthers’ 35-20 Far East Division I triumph over Kubasaki. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Stars and Stripes has selected an Athlete of the Year for each of the respective fall sports played across each of DODEA’s Europe and Pacific theaters. Check out our site this week to read profiles for golf (Tuesday), tennis (Wednesday), cross country (Thursday), volleyball (Friday) and football (Saturday).

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Losing their season opener at home to Kubasaki could have sent Kadena’s football season into a tailspin.

Instead, the 34-20 defeat proved to be the catalyst the Panthers needed to right the ship and extend their record for DODEA-Pacific Far East Division I football titles to eight.

“We didn’t perform our best,” senior running back Jeremiah Drummer said, “but I wasn’t fazed. I didn’t feel defeated, because I knew we were going to see (the Dragons) again.”

Instead of worrying about things, the Panthers did things, Drummer said. “Coach (Sergio Mendoza) told us what adjustments we would make. We watched the film, saw what mistakes we made, saw what we needed to work on,” he said.

From there, it was non-stop winning. Kadena won its last six games – the longest win streak extant in DODEA-Pacific – including the D-I final, 35-20 over Kubasaki on Oct. 28.

Leading the way in that game was Drummer, who rushed 32 times for 227 yards and scored four times. That capped a season in which he had 875 yards and 13 touchdowns on 115 carries, an average of 7.61 yards per attempt.

For that, Drummer has been named Stars and Stripes’ Pacific football Athlete of the Year.

Drummer’s was the quiet sort of leadership that typifies the Kadena brand, Mendoza said.

“He bring a very stoic, determined leadership to the team,” Mendoza said. “He leads by example and heart. A true player who feels the ‘we’ is bigger than the ‘me’ and proved it whenever he went onto the field. He sacrificed over and over again for his team.”

An example of that was Drummer playing despite a fractured left finger the last couple of games (he was cleared to play with a splint).

“I’m a competitive person by nature,” Drummer said, adding that he didn’t want to be sidelined the way he had missed his entire sophomore season due to a back injury suffered in a tackling drill.

Drummer watched as his then-senior teammate Trent Fowler and the Panthers went 3-1 in a coronavirus-abbreviated season that featured games only against the Dragons.

He finally got onto the field as a junior in 2022 for what was again a COVID-truncated season, in which the Panthers only played Kubasaki and Nile C. Kinnick.

That was what Mendoza called Drummer’s “coming-out season, but he was still developing as a running back. It was his first season being on the field as a high school player.”

In fact, Drummer hadn’t played ball since his middle-school years in California. But it didn’t take long, Drummer said, to settle in once he did take the field.

“Adjusting to the speed and physicality of the game,” Drummer said of his return to the field. “I’ve always been a running back. I’m used to being hit, and I trained in the offseason. Once I got used to it again, everything was OK.”

Only twice did the Panthers lose during Drummer’s two seasons in the backfield, once each to Kubasaki. Both times, Kadena avenged those defeats to claim championships, the DODEA All-Japan title in 2022 in addition to Far East last month.

“I work hard to win,” Drummer said, adding of the D-I title game: “I thought this was the perfect way to end our season, to come out of it with a ring.”


Age — 17.

Place of birth — Wichita, Kansas.

Sports played besides football — Wrestling track and field.

Athlete he looks up to — NFL running back Marshawn Lynch.

Favorite school subject — Physical education.

Least favorite school subject — Math.

Favorite artist — Li’l Wayne, Kanye West.

Favorite music — Hip hop, R&B.

Favorite movie — Get Out.

Favorite TV series — Spongebob Squarepants.

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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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