No longer is Osan American vs. Taegu American a get-together of also-ran high school football teams jockeying for the dubious honor of seeing which will finish two games behind their perennial conqueror, Seoul American.

A sense of urgency pervades both camps as their Saturday showdown at Taegu’s Camp Walker looms: The team that does better in their two head-to-head battles will host the first Far East championship for small schools.

“It’s a whole ’nother level,” Osan American coach Tony Alvarado said. “Rather than playing just another team, it means something now.”

Said Taegu American coach George Speer: “We had three or four different objectives entering this season. That’s one of them. We can be the small-school Far East representative.”

The quest to host that title game begins at 2 p.m. Saturday, when Alvarado’s Cougars and Speer’s Warriors tangle at Camp Walker’s Kelly Field in Daegu. Their return engagement ends the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea Football League season on Oct. 29, Osan American’s homecoming game.

Alvarado’s Cougars squads have had their way with the Warriors the past few seasons. Osan has beaten Taegu four straight times by a 153-24 margin.

But this season Alvarado’s team lacks experience, with just two returning starters and a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores.

Speer’s squad boasts 14 returners, 11 of whom started or saw significant playing time. Seniors Kory Grammer, Sidney Washington and Tony Butts are “pumping these kids up that they’re wanting to do something this year,” Speer said. “This is a good group.

“We’ve been hitting each other harder in practice than we have in any of our games last season,” he said. “The kids are ready to go out and beat on somebody else.”

For the first time since DODDS-Korea took over the league, Taegu “has both an offensive and defensive team this season,” Speer said. “We don’t have much depth but we have some big kids, some skill-positions kids. They don’t have to ‘just last.’ Now, we want them going 100 mph.”

Though the Cougars already are a game up on the Warriors, having lost their season opener 29-12 last Saturday to Seoul American, Alvardo knows his green group will face a Warriors team long on desire.

“I know down there, they’re hungry. They’re out to win,” Alvarado said. “Last year, he had just two seniors. This year, he’s got 14 back. They have a very experienced group coming back, a whole year under their belt, older, wiser. That’s a good group. That, by itself, poses a threat.”

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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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