TORII STATION, Okinawa – Six days between semifinals and championship game with nothing but practice and sightseeing in between proved to be too much missed class time for too little activity in DODDS-Pacific officials’ eyes.

So for the second time in three years, the Far East Division I football playoffs will undergo a major makeover, Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said in a wide-ranging interview earlier this month.

Rather than four teams traveling for a week to one neutral site to play semifinals, a third-place game and a championship, the playoffs will now involve a traveling three-tiered system featuring play-in games on Oct. 3, semifinals on the 29th and the title game on Nov. 12.

“The week’s wait with them just practicing and trying to find them things to do … There’s no other Far East event in which kids aren’t involved in some activity for the entirety of the event,” Hobbs said.

There’s also no other football playoff he knows of, he said, in which teams remain in place for six days to play a consolation game. “We wanted to move away from that and to one conclusion with a championship game,” Hobbs said.

Under the new setup, on Oct. 3, Guam High will travel to Okinawa’s second-place D-I team, either Kadena or Kubasaki, while Seoul American will visit Japan’s No. 2 D-I team, either Yokota or Nile C. Kinnick.

In the semifinals on the 29th, the Guam High-Okinawa No. 2 game winner travels to Japan’s top D-I team and the Seoul American-Japan No. 2 game winner visits Okinawa’s No. 1 D-I team.

Those winners then meet in the final at a site to be determined, based on the outcome of those first four games. No third-place game will be scheduled.

“It’s going to mean one less game for somebody and that’s unfortunate,” coach Fred Bales of 2010 third-place game-winner Kubasaki said. “But I understand the thinking behind it. I’m thrilled we’ll continue to have a playoff.”

Originally, the plan was to stage the playoff games two weeks apart, Oct. 15 and 29 and Nov. 12, to give each traveling team ample time to rest and to arrange airline tickets.

But Guam High, which missed last year’s DODDS playoff due to its commitment to the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam postseason, told DODDS it could not travel for an Oct. 15 game because that’s also an IIAAG playoff date. They also could not be available Oct. 8 or 22.

“So, they would have to play after that or before that,” Hobbs said; hence, why they settled on the Oct. 3 date. “Guam High has worked with the IIAAG to have a bye that particular week. They’ve assured us that they will have one.”

Going with that arrangement means Japan and Okinawa’s D-I teams must play each other twice in September to determine the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in each area. While Yokota and Kinnick have a full slate of games in Japan, it could create some problems for Kadena and Kubasaki to play a full regular season.

“Potentially, Kadena and Kubasaki will have to find a way to fill the October schedule,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said. “Four and a half weeks. That could potentially be a problem. But the higher-ups are doing what they can to ensure we have a fair playoff system.”

It all goes back to the six-day down time between games, said Yokota coach Tim Pujol, who said he didn’t like the all teams in one site arrangement. DODDS took them to see the And 1 basketball clinic on Camp Foster and the Churaumi Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park, but there was little else to do.”

“A week of time in a football setting is different than basketball,” Pujol said. “Saturday to Saturday, that’s a lot of down time. It’s hard waiting a week to play, especially if you lost the semifinal and play for third.”

Discussion also touched on creating a second tier of Division II playoff games, in which Japan No. 1 would play Korea No. 2 and vice versa, with the title game two weeks later.

That was tabled after it was suggested that the better Division II game could be one of the semifinals followed by a less-than-compelling championship. “With only four given teams, that’s a real possibility,” Hobbs said. “The ADs were in agreement that we would keep things as they are. They felt comfortable with it.”

Football wasn’t the only sport to get a calendar makeover. Mass changes were made to the spring sports tournament schedule, with all seven tournaments taking place the week of May 20-24, instead of splitting them into two weeks as has been the practice the last two years.

That move was necessitated by the late start to the two-week Advanced Placement testing period, May 6-9 and May 13-16. Had they kept soccer in one week and baseball, softball and track the next, “Far Easts would have extended into June,” Hobbs said.

“There would be four weeks between the last AP test and the last day of school,” Hobbs said. “We felt we needed to finish those Far East events a week earlier.”

As for finding places for seven tournaments in a week, “we’ve had a lot of schools and districts very accommodating to spread these events … no one location is overburdened with billeting, facilities and officials,” Hobbs said.

All four soccer tournaments will remain in place, as will the baseball in Daegu. But softball, pending the OK for billeting, will move from Kadena to Nile C. Kinnick and track and field from Kubasaki to Yokota.

“If they absolutely cannot provide billeting, we’ll look somewhere else,” Hobbs said regarding softball at Kinnick. “We would like to move it away from Okianwa just because of billeting” which will be used to house D-I girls soccer participants.

Track and field could also not be held on Okinawa at the same time as D-I soccer “unless we moved the teams off base. That’s a burden on the kids financially and the convenience of staying on base for food and busing.”

Hobbs said the meet at Yokota would have fully-automated timing, as did the first two Far East meets on Okinawa.

Having boys and girls D-I and D-II basketball tournaments in the same sites came to a rapid end. D-I girls basketball moves from Naval Station Guam to Yokota, D-II boys from Daegu to Zama American and D-II girls from Daegu to Robert D. Edgren. Boys D-I stays in place at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

“There’s the possibility of maneuvers” in Korea during the D-II tournament timeframe, Hobbs said. The other D-II schools couldn’t host both boys and girls at once, “so we had to split those off,” Hobbs said.As for having both D-I tournaments on Guam, “it simply didn’t work out the way we hoped.” He did not elaborate.

2011-12 DODDS-Pacific Far East High School Sports CalendarDivision I football playoffs

Monday, Oct. 3—Play-in games, Seoul American at DODDS-Japan No. 2; Guam High at Okinawa Activities Council No. 2.

Saturday, Oct. 29—Semifinals, Game 1 winner at Okinawa Activities Council No. 1; Game 2 winner at DODDS-Japan No. 1.

Saturday, Nov. 12—Championship, site to be determined by semifinal results.

Division II football playoffs

Saturday, Nov. 5—Championship, Zama American or Robert D. Edgren at Daegu American or Osan American.

Divisions I-II Cross Country

Monday, Nov. 7-Tuesday, Nov. 8 at Tama Hills Recreation Center, Tokyo, 3.1-mile individual race and 6.2-mile team relay.

Divisions I-II Tennis

Monday, Nov. 7-Thursday, Nov. 10 at Risner Tennis Complex, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, singles, doubles and mixed doubles.

Division II Girls Volleyball

Monday, Nov. 7-Friday, Nov. 11 at Kelly Fitness & Sports Center, Camp Walker, Daegu, South Korea.

Division I Girls Volleyball

Monday, Nov. 7-Saturday, Nov. 12 at Collier Field House and Falcon Gym, Seoul American High School, South Post, Yongsan Garrison, South Korea.

Divisions I-II Wrestling

Monday, Feb. 13-Thursday, Feb. 16 at George I. Purdy Fitness & Sports Center, Yokosuka Naval Base, individual freestyle and dual-meet tournaments.

Division II Boys Basketball

Monday, Feb. 20-Friday, Feb. 24 at Yano Fitness Center, Camp Zama, Japan.

Division II Girls Basketball

Monday, Feb. 20-Friday, Feb. 24 at Robert D. Edgren High School and Potter Fitness & Sports Center, Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Division I Boys Basketball

Monday, Feb. 20-Saturday, Feb. 25 at Coral Reef Fitness & Sports Center, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Division I Girls Basketball

Monday, Feb. 20-Saturday, Feb. 25 at Capps Gym, Yokota High School, and Samurai Fitness & Sports Center, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

Division II Boys Soccer

Monday, May 21-Friday, May 25 at Soldier Field and Independence Park, Camp Humphreys, South Korea.

Division II Girls Soccer

Monday, May 21-Friday, May 25 at Penny Lake Fields 1 and 2 and Matthew C. Perry High School, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

Division I Boys Soccer

Monday, May 21—Friday, May 25 at Upper Field and Mike Petty Stadium, Kubasaki High School, Camp Foster, Okinawa.

Division I Girls Soccer

Monday, May 21-Friday, May 25 at Upper and Lower Fields, Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.

Divisions I-II Baseball

Monday, May 21-Thursday, May 24 at Kelly Field, Camp Walker, and Carroll Field, Camp Carroll, South Korea.

Divisions I-II Girls Softball

Monday, May 21-Thursday, May 24 at Berkey Field and Briggs Bay Fields, Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan.

Divisions I-II Track and Field

Wednesday, May 23-Friday, May 25 at Bonk Field, Yokota High School, Yokota Air Base, Japan.

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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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