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ASIJ-Kinnick game has clear title implications

By DAVE ORNAUER | Stars and Stripes | Published: October 11, 2018

TOKYO – In as much a de facto Far East Division I football semifinal game as it gets, Nile C. Kinnick visits American School In Japan at 5:30 p.m. Friday, with huge D-I title-game implications.

-- If the Red Devils win, they all but seal host rights to the D-I championship game for the second straight year; it’s scheduled for Nov. 10.

-- If ASIJ prevails at its own Mustang Valley, it would leave the Red Devils, Kadena and the Mustangs with one loss each and most likely lead to a points tiebreaker to decide the top two spots.

Yet Kinnick coach Dan Joley and ASIJ coach Roy Tomlinson say it’s just another weekend of football.

“We look only at what’s in front of us and that’s ASIJ,” Joley said Thursday. “We’ll deal with next week as it comes. But ASIJ gets better every week.”

Indeed, the Mustangs lost 67-26 at home to the Panthers last year, but just 29 days later traveled to Kadena and throttled the Panthers 30-3.

“They’re the type of team that gets more dangerous as the season goes on,” Joley said.

Likewise, Kinnick has been a thorn in ASIJ’s side the last couple of years. The Red Devils’ 32-12 win last season was one of the losses that doomed ASIJ’s chances to replicate a D-I title won in 2016. Even that year, Kinnick handed ASIJ its only loss, 29-22.

“They always field a good team and they’re tough to beat,” Tomlinson said. “But at the end of the day, we’re just trying to win a game, trying to go 1-0 this week.”

Both coaches said they’re aware of the potential scenarios.

“We’re in good position,” Joley said.

“It will make life more interesting if we can do it,” Tomlinson said. “I like interesting.”

Kadena travels to Humphreys for a first-ever meeting with the Blackhawks; kickoff is at 6 p.m.

The Devils and Mustangs aren’t alone in playing a game with title implications. Osan visits Daegu at 6 p.m. Friday, with the winner punching a ticket to the Nov. 10 Division II title game, with Zama currently in the driver’s seat to host.

The Trojans play their first game on home turf on Friday against Matthew C. Perry, a tune-up for next week’s crucial road trip to Robert D. Edgren, the only team with a chance to catch Zama.

Off the football field, players in other sports are tuning up for district championships, which start next weekend.

Volleyball teams from Japan and Okinawa have gathered at Mustang Valley for the fourth annual ASIJ YUJO Tournament. Play began Thursday, with the showcase game on the first day being Seisen’s three-set win over Yokota in a battle of last year’s Far East D-I and D-II champions.

“It gives the girls plenty of court time, an opportunity to see what they’re capable of,” Panthers coach Emily Mickelson said. “They see that if they work together, they can accomplish anything. It shows how important heart and hustle are.”

It’s also the final regular season for cross country in Japan, while tennis teams in Japan and Korea have one more week before their district tournaments at the end of the month.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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