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Familiarity serves as a prevailing theme among teams squaring off on the gridiron this weekend:

 Yokota heads to Naval Air Facility Atsugi to face Zama for the third time this season and the second time in two weeks. The Panthers beat the Trojans 22-6 on opening weekend Sept. 2, then had two weeks off before topping Zama again 41-6, each of those games at Yokota.

 On Okinawa, Kadena looks to wrap up its first district championship since 2013 when the two-time defending Far East Division I champion Panthers host Kubasaki on Friday at Ryukyu Middle School. Kadena routed the Dragons 34-3 in the season opener Sept. 2; they play again, no matter Friday’s outcome, on Oct. 28 at Kubasaki.

 And for the third time in as many seasons, Matthew C. Perry will play an inter-district game against three-time defending Division II Daegu, on Saturday at Kelly Field, Camp Walker. The Warriors beat the Samurai 60-50 in the D-II title game in 2014 and 52-20 last Oct. 31 at Daegu.

It’s a mixed bag, coaches say. While they’re happy to be at least playing a game, playing the same opponent so many times leads to “diminished returns,” in the words of one coach.

“The idea of facing the same opponent three times in five weeks … maybe they need to rethink the way we put the schedule together next year,” Yokota coach Tim Pujol said.

The second meeting with Zama was a non-divisional game, added at the last minute when Robert D. Edgren – Yokota’s regularly-schedule opponent – had to forfeit the contest due to lack of available players.

DODEA-Pacific athletics coordinator Tom McKinney acknowledged that it wasn’t the most ideal situation, but one that at least gave the two teams another game. McKinney said DODEA-Pacific is trying to assemble a panel to discuss scheduling in the future.

“In the light of what happened (with Edgren), it’s certainly better than not having a game at all,” Pujol said.

Ideally, Pujol said, coaches would prefer that their teams face as many different opponents as possible; otherwise, they’d become too familiar with a regular foe’s tendencies, strength and weaknesses. “It becomes too difficult to strategize for winning,” Pujol said.

“It’s frustrating,” longtime Kubasaki coach Fred Bales said. “I wish we had a better schedule. But it’s football. We still love the game, and if we have a game, we play.”

On the other side of the coin, Perry’s road trip to Daegu will be a “refreshing” change for the Samurai, coach Frank Macias said – it won’t involve a 12-hour bus ride, as was the case in their 48-18 loss at Nile C. Kinnick last weekend.

The Samurai are in the midst of a four-game road swing, three of which involve bus trips, to Edgren on Oct. 7 and Zama on Oct. 14 as well as Kinnick. “That’s at least 24 hours on a bus three times,” Macias said.

In addition to trying to “get the sting” of their loss at Kinnick out of their system, the Samurai get to “see the level of competition in Korea” and have the incentive to avenge the two losses to Daegu.

“My veterans remember the last two years,” Macias said. “They want payback. They’ve been on the wrong end of these too long.”

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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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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