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Panthers get another shot at Mustangs

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 14, 2017

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – It would be understandable if Kadena football entered Saturday’s rematch of the 2016 Far East Division I title game hungry for revenge, after losing twice at American School In Japan’s Mustang Valley last season.

Instead, coach Sergio Mendoza says his Panthers are looking inward, trying to gaze at themselves and what they’re doing, instead of worrying who they’re playing this weekend and about the past.

“Highly introspective,” Mendoza said, describing the Panthers’ mood as Saturday’s 1 p.m. kickoff approaches.

“We’re focusing on what we can do better. We’re not happy with the type of football we’re playing. We can be more aggressive. We can be faster. We don’t feel like we’re playing good football yet.”

Kadena’s record so far belies Mendoza’s statement. The Panthers have won each of their two games by a margin of 87-6, and a retooled offensive line – thought to be rebuilding after getting hit by graduations and transfers – has led the way for 818 rushing yards.

If better is possible, good is not enough, is the Panthers’ way of thinking, Mendoza said.

“We’ve heard there are some good teams out there. But we are just trying to play better football,” he said.

Saturday’s game is one of three scheduled this weekend with Far East football championship implications:

¬¬-- Nile C. Kinnick (3-0), which has never won on Okinawa in any football game, visits Kubasaki (0-3), hoping to keep alive its bid for a school-first Far East Division I title-game appearance. Kickoff is at 5 p.m. Saturday.

¬¬-- Defending Far East Division II champion Matthew C. Perry, 1-1 thus far this season, begins its DODEA-Japan and Japan D-II schedule when the Samurai host Zama in their homecoming game at 7 p.m. Friday.

In other action, Humphreys plays a D-I team for the second straight week when the Blackhawks visit Seoul American at 6 p.m. Friday. Robert D. Edgren travels to Daegu, also at 6 p.m. Friday, while Guam High hosts John F. Kennedy for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Weather may play a factor in the Perry and Kubasaki home games, thanks to Typhoon Talim lurking west of Okinawa and Japan’s main islands. Rain is forecast for the whole weekend at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, while gusty winds and showers are in the cards for Okinawa.

Though the Dragons are winless, they still have only one D-I loss and are still alive for a return to the title game. But coach Fred Bales says he and Kubasaki aren’t getting their hopes up over Kinnick’s winless mark on Okinawa.

“All those streaks come to an end at some point,” Bales said, mindful that Kubasaki had never lost in Korea until falling 13-11 last Saturday at Humphreys.

As for the Red Devils, coach Dan Joley said he’s hoping the team can maintain the same focus it has shown.

“We have our goals at the end of the season, but there’s only one way to eat an elephant: One bite at a time,” Joley said.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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