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Weather pushes two football games back three weeks

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 27, 2018

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Two DODEA-Pacific football games scheduled for Friday were postponed to Oct. 26 due to the approach of Typhoon Trami and the fear that it would affect the two Okinawa-based teams’ ability to travel.

Trami, a Category 2-equivalent typhoon, is forecast to affect Okinawa this weekend. Kadena and Kubasaki were to fly to Tokyo on Thursday, with the Panthers playing at Yokota and the Dragons at Nile C. Kinnick on Friday, with the teams scheduled to return to Okinawa on Saturday.

DODEA-Pacific officials were fearful they’d be stranded in Tokyo for a day, maybe two, Far East athletics coordinator Tom McKinney said.

“It was a thoughtful decision not to fly this weekend,” said coach Fred Bales of Kubasaki, looking for its first D-I win after opening the season with two losses. “It couldn’t be helped.”

The two games were rescheduled for Oct. 26, also a Friday, and the Yokota at Kubasaki game, slated for Oct. 27, was pushed back to Nov. 9.

“We were excited and ready to play, but safety is always paramount,” said coach Dan Joley of Kinnick, which began the season 3-0, including two D-I victories, both on the road, at Kadena and Humphreys.

“Traveling with a team is always a challenge, and a typhoon just adds to the challenge,” Joley said.

The two postponements leaves a very thin DODEA-Pacific football slate this weekend; only Humphreys plays, at American School In Japan at 1 p.m. Saturday – ASIJ’s annual Spirit Day.

Not playing Friday means Kubasaki will have a month-long break between games; they last played at ASIJ, losing 17-0 on Sept. 7, and are next scheduled to visit Kadena next Friday.

But in those four weeks, Bales said, the Dragons have gotten players back from illness and injury and are “getting a lot done” during practice.

“We really appreciate the reschedule of the games and keeping our seventh game” moving the Yokota game to November, Bales said.

Likewise, Kadena has had a long stretch between games, having last played on Sept. 14, routing ASIJ 57-13.

“It’s hard to keep the fire burning with all those bye weeks, but the safety of the kids is the biggest concern,” said coach Sergio Mendoza of Kadena, 1-1 in D-I play and 2-1 overall.

One consequence of the postponement is that Kubasaki’s and Kadena’s schedules are backloaded; the Dragons play every week the last five weeks of the regular season and the Panthers three of the last four.

“We wanted to have those two weeks off in case we made it any further,” Mendoza said of the Panthers possibly reaching what would be their sixth straight Far East D-I title game and Pacific-record 10th overall. Kadena holds a record six D-I titles.

For their part, Humphreys (0-1) and ASIJ (2-1) are trying to stay alive for a shot at the D-I title game, scheduled for Nov. 10 at the site of the team with the best regular-season record.

It’s the Blackhawks’ first trip to Mustang Valley, and they’ll be playing on a Spirit Day that features everything from Kanto Plain tennis and volleyball to a Sumo wrestling exhibition on campus.

Humphreys coach Steven Elliott says all that is the last thing on his and his players’ minds, after a 35-6 home loss Sept. 15 to Kinnick.

“We went back to the basics, to fundamentals” in the days following the defeat, Elliott said, adding that the team has viewed much video to see “what right looks like and what wrong looks like.”

The Mustangs “have some talent,” Elliott said, adding he got to know their coaching staff at the Tomodachi Bowl friendship game last March in Tokyo. “They have my respect. This game won’t be taken lightly.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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