Samurai, Islanders relying on defense
Stars and Stripes October 1, 2004
Call it the “Battle of the Defenses.”
Sporting 2-0 records, the Kadena Islanders and Kubasaki Samurai march into a Saturday showdown at Panther Field, Kadena Air Base, hoping to take the early edge in the battle for the top seed in the Okinawa Activities Council postseason playoffs.
And each team largely credits its defense for where it is:
• The Islanders have permitted just 38 yards and a touchdown, while forcing 10 turnovers and registering seven quarterback sacks.
“It’s the fire of the team,” coach Sergio Mendoza said. “It’s the match that lights the fire for the offense (and) pumps them up to play harder.”
Grady Pennell and Ted Awana each has forced two turnovers and recorded one sack.
• While the Samurai have been outgained 335-227 on offense, they’ve allowed just 22 points, thanks mainly to an opportunistic defense that has forced 10 turnovers.
“We’ve had a good effort and some breaks,” coach Fred Bales said. “We could just as easily be 1-1 or 0-2. Why we aren’t is because of a great team effort. A lot of people have stepped up and made plays and they’ve worked hard in practice.”
The spark for the Samurai has been sophomore newcomer Lenard White, who’s been doing it on both sides of the ball.
The Samurai-Islanders game highlights a nearly full slate of games on Saturday in the Pacific.
The weekend began a day earlier than usual, with the American School In Japan visiting Yokota on Thursday in what might be a blustery, wet battle thanks to Tropical Storm Meari.
On Friday, Nile C. Kinnick visits Robert D. Edgren. Then on Saturday, after a week hiatus for the Chu Sok holiday, Korea’s league resumes with Osan American at Taegu American, while Guam High visits Southern.
What worries Mendoza is that Bales, whose roots are on offense, hasn’t gotten his team’s offense into gear yet.
“When it does, it’ll be interesting to see, then figure out what type of defense to put against it,” he said. “You have to stay aggressive, play smart, keep forcing turnovers and capitalizing on them.”
“They’re an impressive team,” Bales said of the Islanders. “They’re teeing it up and running right at people, and on defense they’re lining up and throwing 11 people at the football. And they have outstanding running backs and a good kicking game.”
The Samurai hope for continued “good fortune, sterling effort and intensity of team play that we’ve seen the first two games,” Bales said.