CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – In any season before this, being outscored 100-16 and getting swept by Kadena in the Okinawa Activities Council season series would have spelled the end of the Far East Division I playoff road for Kubasaki. So, too, for Nile C. Kinnick, which lost two games with Yokota by a 89-0 margin.

But opportunity still knocks for both teams in 2010. Thanks to Saturday’s Far East-first Division I play-in game, added to the DODDS Pacific athletics calendar last spring, one team or the other will burst through the side door into the four-team Division I field.

“It’s a great opportunity,” said first-year coach Dan Joley, whose Kinnick team hasn’t won a title of any kind since the 1998 Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools crown.

“You can wipe away whatever’s happened the entire year and focus on one game. The kids are excited about that. We’re trying to teach our kids to have a forward vision and not look behind. … If you focus on one thing, good things are going to happen.”

Likewise, coach Fred Bales says his Dragons are looking ahead to a new kind of challenge previously unavailable to them; Kubasaki hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since winning the Division I title in 2005.

“As long as you have practices and games left, that’s good,” Bales said. “We’re going back to work, regroup, work hard and plan for the next game. All games are big games, but some are just a little bigger than others. This week falls into that category.”

The teams kick off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium.

Elsewhere, Daegu American can punch its second straight ticket to the Division II title game Nov. 6 at Zama American. The Warriors visit Osan American; kickoff is at 6 p.m. Friday.

Guam High hosts Father Duenas Memorial in an Interscholastic Football League semifinal at 3 p.m. Saturday, with a school-first trip to the IFL’s championship Bamboo Bowl on the line.

Kinnick hosted Kubasaki during the 2009 regular season, edging the Dragons 19-16 at Yokosuka Naval Base’s Berkey Field.

“We’re looking forward to renewing our (rivalry) with them; we had a great game on the road at their place,” Bales said. Kinnick was to visit Kubasaki on Sept. 2, but travel arrangements didn’t work out.

“Another day, another challenge, another game, another game plan; the challenge is always to show up at the ballpark on game night with our best stuff,” Bales said. “That’s what we’re working toward this week.”

Joley and Red Devils defensive assistant Robert Stovall have worked this season to turn Kinnick around not just from a 1-8 2009 campaign, but reversing the team’s culture and attitude, Joley said.

Toward that end, the Devils plan to do some “team-bonding” things such as beach trips, even visiting Ocean Expo Park’s Churaumi Aquarium, the second-largest fresh-water aquarium in the world, while on Okinawa.

“We use that as a team-building exercise,” Joley said, adding that on a road trip to Robert D. Edgren, they visited a beach and a museum. “We came away with a good feeling, built some trust with each other.”

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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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