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It was not the way either 2009 champion Zama American nor reigning champion Daegu American viewed their path to this season’s Far East Division II championship game.

With the 2011 title contest looming Nov. 5 at Daegu’s Camp Walker, each team is battling injuries and a pronounced lack of momentum, making their route to the championship a rocky one.

“How we play in this game is going to be a big thing for us going into the championship,” coach Ken Walter said of his Daegu team that hosts Seoul American in Friday’s homecoming contest. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field.

It’s a much different Falcons team than the Warriors beat twice last season. Seoul American blanked Daegu 16-0 on Sept. 23. And in contrast to the Warriors’ 4-2 regular season last year in which they outscored opponents 146-91, Daegu is 1-4 and has been outscored 85-65.

“It’s our homecoming. We’re not used to losing those. … This isn’t how we envisioned going into the championship game. We’d feel better about things, we’d come off on a positive note if we won this game,” Walter said of Daegu’s last regular-season contest.

In addition to losing key components Jarel Connie and Tre Griffin to graduation last June, injuried have nagged quarterback-receiver Darius Wyche all of the current season.

Injuries have also been the bane of Zama’s existence, forcing coach Steven Merrell to use inexperienced backup troops to fill the gaps.

While he’d rather go with his starters, Merrell also said there’s some merit to resting the front-liners to ensure they’re ready for Nov. 5.

“It’s a delicate balance, but you need to look at the big picture; you have a game that means everything,” Merrell said Thursday, the day before his Trojans laced up against DODDS Japan champion Yokota; kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Trojans Field.

His Trojans went 5-3 in 2010 and outscored foes 217-127, but this year are 3-4, losing their last two games, and have been outscored 232-185.

“We’re not going to wave a white flag,” Merrell said, adding that injuries are “part of football. We just hang it up and check out (of Zama’s last two regular-season games). Plus, it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up so they’ll be ready when the time comes” on Nov. 5.

Friday’s contest is Yokota’s last chance to fine tune for its Far East Division I semifinal contest Oct. 29 against two-time defending champion Kadena.

At Yokosuka Naval Base, Robert D. Edgren plays its final game of the season against Nile C. Kinnick; kickoff is at 7 p.m. Friday.

Elsewhere, Guam High plays at George Washington trying to defend its Interscholastic Football League title; kickoff is 7 p.m. Saturday. The third-place game has Okkodo playing Simon Sanchez at John F. Kennedy High School; kickoff is at 3 p.m.

Kubasaki hosts the Singapore Falcons in its homecoming game at 2 p.m. Saturday, the Dragons’ final tune up for their D-I semifinal game Oct. 29 against Seoul American.

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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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