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Sixth in a series of high school football previews.

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – It took no more than five minutes into the Dragons’ first football team meeting for Kubasaki to come up with a mantra for the upcoming season: “Rise Up In 2013” adorns the cover of each player’s loose-leaf playbook. Coach Fred Bales hopes they can use that mantra and wipe out the disappointment that marked the end of the past two seasons – defeat at Yokota in the Far East Division I title game. “No fun,” Bales said. “Just getting to the big game is not enough. We want to win it. With the sting of the last two years fresh in our minds, I think there’s more of a sense of urgency” this season. Most immediate among urgent tasks, Bales said, are: -- Replacing the player to whom he referred to as the key to the team – quarterback Tyler Smith, who transferred to Jacksonville, N.C., over the summer. “Key loss,” Bales said. -- Rebuilding an offensive line hit hard by PCS and graduation. “We had a lot of turnover in the o-line,” he said. “Two big jobs, locking down the quarterback job and getting clarity and definition in the o-line,” Bales said. “The same challenge everybody has, creating chemistry and an effective team with all those moving parts in a short period of time.” In the mix at quarterback are senior Joe Cervantes, last year’s second stringer, plus junior DaQuan Alderman and sophomore DeCurtis Davis. Battling for line jobs are a mix of holdovers and newcomers. Junior Josiah Allen is the “bell cow” of the line, Bales said. He’s joined by Joshua Davis, a junior who missed all of last season with a knee injury, and new senior Kane Wilton and junior Steven Hunt, the latter a transfer from Stafford, Va. Kareem Key, a three-year starter, is back at tight end and linebacker. The big question that loomed over the summer, whether Pacific rushing leader Jarrett Mitchell would return, was settled – No. 24 will try to better his 2012 total of 1,392 yards on 139 carries. That may be the most experienced part of the team, the running back corps, which includes senior Tyshon Butler and junior Winston Maxwell. “Solid backfield, strength, senior talent and senior leadership,” Bales said of a group that numbers eight in all. “Tremendous work ethic. The effort has been there.” Will it be enough to take the final step, should the Dragons make it to their third straight D-I title game? “It’s just going to take better execution on offense, better team defense, a sound kicking game,” Bales said of what’s needed to take the last step to the D-I mountaintop. “The goal is certainly to win a championship. It comes down to blocking and tackling. Yokota has been the best at that the last two years. We have to rise up to that standard.”

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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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