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The reviews are starting to come in about the first Far East High School Football Playoffs, and the new system is getting high marks.

“It … gave the kids a stage on which to perform, which has been really lacking in football,” said coach Fred Bales, whose Kubasaki Dragons of Okinawa won the Class AA title on Saturday.

“I like this idea of having a small schools and big schools championship. It levels the playing field,” said coach Tony Alvarado of the Class A champion Osan American Cougars of South Korea.

The Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific system was devised in the spring. Its architect, Far East Activities Council chairman Don Hobbs, said almost “everything went extraordinarily well.”

Until 1999, Pacific high school football was regional. Guam, South Korea, Okinawa and Japan teams competed only for league bragging rights. Only Japan and Okinawa had leagues with mostly DODDS teams. Guam High was DODDS’ only Interscholastic Football League presence. Eighth Army and 51st Services youth services ran Korea’s league.

The Rising Sun Bowl All-Japan championship, pitting the Japan Football League winner against the Okinawa Activities Council titlist, began in 1999. Four years later, DODDS-Korea picked up football there.

But until this year, no playoffs existed to bring all four leagues together — and until last fall, Kubasaki and OAC rival Kadena fielded split-squad teams. Starting this year, each school put only its varsity on the field, in a best-of-three series.

Bales said he was particularly pleased the Dragons’ two playoff games drew more than 1,000 fans each — “huge crowds, all that excitement and anticipation. Guam did a great job hosting their game, and the attention it received in the local Guam media was terrific.”

Spectators also thronged Yongsan Garrison’s Falcon Field for Seoul American’s Nov. 5 upset of Yokota. At Osan, more than 800 packed the Cougars Field stands and a few hundred more ringed the surrounding fenceline to watch Osan rally past Edgren.

Hobbs was at the Kubasaki-Guam High semifinal and Class AA championship and kept in close touch with representatives from each DODDS district, “asking them what went right, what went wrong, things that should be continued or changed.” He said he plans to seek their input again but “I’m not anticipating any major, huge changes.”

He did identify two issues likely to be discussed at December’s Interscholastic Athletic Policy meeting on Okinawa:

¶ Selecting an All-Far East football team, as DODDS-Europe does. “It’s going to have to be kicked around,” Hobbs said, adding that there are obvious difficulties, such as that most teams don’t see each other play during the season, making judging who’s worthy difficult.

“What parameters do we set?” he asked. “Who votes? Running backs and people who get their names in the paper, do the running, passing and receiving, those will be easier to identify but what about the linemen? What about teams who didn’t make the playoffs? Do we include all schools into one mix or separate them Class AA and Class A as we do in other sports?”

¶ Easing the quick travel arrangements needed because JFL and OAC champions aren’t determined until a week before the playoffs. Kubasaki had to fly to Guam three days before the game and couldn’t return until two days after.

“That can be worked through,” Hobbs said. “Next year, we’ll make sure it gets done.” And if that’s the worst that happened in the playoffs’ first year, he said, “We can live with that.”

Dave Ornauer's Top Ten and grid honorsThe Top Ten teams in the final Stars and Stripes’ 2005 Far East high school football ratings, with records through Nov. 12, points and last week’s rating, as compiled by Dave Ornauer, Stars and Stripes sports reporter. Ratings are based primarily on teams’ win-loss records, quality of wins, strength of overall roster, point differential, team and individual statistics, strength of schedule and strength of leagues. Maximum rating is 500 points:

Record Pts Pvs

1. Kubasaki (Okinawa) 4-1 464 3

2. Geo. Washington (Guam) 7-0 460 2

3. Seoul American 5-1 456 1

4. Yokota (Japan) 7-1 452 4

5. American School In Japan 5-1 424 5

6. Father Duenas (Guam) 5-2 416 6

7. Kadena (Okinawa) 1-2 404 7

8. Nile C. Kinnick (Japan) 4-4 372 8

9. Osan American (S. Korea) 3-2 368 9

10. John F. Kennedy (Guam) 4-3 364 10

Dave Ornauer’s outlook results

DODDS-Pacific Far East playoffs: 1-3, .250

Season: 38-13, .746.

Week 11 grid honors

Kubasaki-Michael Bennett 162 all-purpose yards, 1 touchdown (103 yards, 84-yard kick-return touchdown, 3 returns; 59 yards, 7 carries). David Motu 111 all-purpose yards, 3 touchdowns (67 yards, touchdown runs of 20 and 7 yards, 10 carries; 44-yard interception-return touchdown); 1 sack. Tim Gardner 89 yards, 6-yard touchdown run, 17 carries.

Seoul American-Marque Snow 99 yards, 2-yard touchdown run, 10 carries.

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