CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – On the football field last Saturday, the Kadena Panthers left little doubt they were heavy favorites to be back in the Division I title game this season.

But that status took a hit this week when DODEA Pacific officials announced that numerous players were kicked off the team because of unspecified code of conduct violations.

Kadena coaches, athletics director Tom Bell and school and district administrators declined to comment and referred all questions to DODEA Pacific’s area office at Torii Station.

“When made aware of the situation, school officials took immediate and necessary action in accordance with established policies and procedures. … We took the appropriate measure of removing the players involved,” DODEA Pacific spokesman Marcelo Calero said in a statement.

The players have been removed from the football team for the rest of the season, Calero’s statement said.

The names of the players and the number involved were not released, but several sources familiar with the situation, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said seven starters were involved and removed from the team.

Calero said in his statement: “It is inappropriate to discuss the nature of the violations or the details of this situation.”

Kadena is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in Division I, a half-game behind Kinnick. The Panthers have outscored their foes 154-32.

The D-I title game is scheduled for Oct. 28 and will feature the team with the best record hosting the runner-up.

The violations apparently occurred at Yokosuka Naval Base, where the Panthers stayed Friday and Saturday while in Tokyo to play against American School In Japan. Kadena won 67-26.

Stars and Stripes received an e-mail Monday from coach Sergio Mendoza saying that “major changes” were coming to Kadena’s roster for Saturday’s upcoming home game against Seoul American. He did not elaborate.

Bell would only say that “team rules were broken.”

Code of conduct violations involving Far East events, of which the D-I title chase qualifies, generally mean the individuals in question are ineligible for any Far East activities for a period of one year.

The Panthers’ remaining schedule includes the Seoul American home game, a Sept. 30 game at Kinnick, an Oct. 6 visit to Kubasaki and the regular-season finale vs. ASIJ on Oct. 13. Calero said the team will play out its schedule.

“Kadena High School has dedicated coaches and players committed to seeing their school go as far as it possibly can this football season,” his statement said.

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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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