CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Call this “Must-Win Saturday” for Yokota and Seoul American football.

The two teams enter Saturday’s games at Kadena and Kubasaki, who finished second and first in the Far East Division I race last season, desperately needing victories to stay alive in the chase for this year’s title. They each have one D-I loss; a second would seriously harm those hopes.

“It makes it interesting, if certain teams win and if certain teams lose,” said coach Jim Davis of Seoul American (1-1 overall, 0-1 D-I). “It’s a crazy weekend, a good weekend for football.”

The Falcons opened with a 24-6 win Aug. 29 at Division II Humphreys before falling last Saturday at home 21-20 to Yokota. The Panthers (1-1, 0-1) began by losing at home 41-13 to Kadena (2-0, 1-0) on Sept. 5 before leveling their mark at Seoul American’s Sims Field. Seoul American and Kadena kick off at 3 p.m. Yokota at Kubasaki (0-1) follows at 6 p.m.

The weekend appears just as crucial for D-II teams jostling for spots at their title-game table, particularly in Japan, where fledgling Matthew C. Perry (1-0) visits two-time D-II champion Zama (0-1); Japan hosts the D-II title game this year. In Korea, Humphreys (1-2, 1-1) travels to Osan (0-2). Kickoffs are at 7 p.m. Friday.

Elsewhere, Nile C. Kinnick (2-0) entertains Robert D. Edgren (0-2) in an inter-division game at 7 p.m. Friday, with the Eagles seeking their first win in three games. Guam (0-3) is also looking to hit the win column; the Panthers host Okkodo at 7 p.m. Saturday.

In preparing for playing the two biggest DODDS Pacific schools in Okinawa’s sultry heat and humidity, coaches try to get the players to focus on the tasks at hand, not what’s at stake in the D-I chase. “We understand the situation,” Davis said.

“It’s up to me” to be concerned about things like the game’s impact on title chances, Yokota coach Tim Pujol said. “The kids need not be concerned about that. They need to keep preparing, conditioning and get ready to fill their roles.”

The Falcons, Davis said, look back on the Yokota loss and acknowledge they were “only a couple of plays away from being there.”

“Do we go into Kadena thinking that they’re too strong, or do we rise up from the loss to Yokota and take it out on Kadena? The kids have chosen to take the latter path,” Davis said.

For Yokota, it’s simply “business as usual,” Pujol said.

“We’re just preparing like we usually do,” he said. “We’re trying to improve on the things we weren’t happy with and just move forward.”

Both coaches say they’re stressing hydration when it comes to battling the heat and humidity; Davis said the Falcons began that process on Tuesday, and Yokota’s has already begun as well.

“We’re telling them to hydrate and we’re doing out conditioning portion at the beginning of practice, when it’s really warm,” Pujol said. “Keep up a brisk tempo and pace in practice.”

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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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