A pair of Panthers seniors — one a Yokota running back, the other a Kadena volleyball player — made history during the fall sports season.

Yokota’s Roy Roach rewrote the Japan Football League record book, rushing for 1,891 yards and scoring 17 times while leading the Panthers to their fifth straight JFL title, fourth straight Rising Sun Bowl crown and extending Yokota’s on-field winning streak to a Far East record-tying 39.

“He was a week-in, week-out producer,” said Yokota coach Tim Pujol.

Katie LaGrave, a Kadena middle blocker, helped her team go where no Panther team had gone before: third place in November’s Far East Girls Class AA Volleyball Tournament.

Roach and LaGrave get the nod as Stars and Stripes Athletes of the Quarter.

Beating Darren Taylor’s JFL rushing record, set in 2001, is perhaps Roach’s most obvious contribution to the Panthers, whom he joined immediately after transferring from Hampton, Va.

“Most of the time, the focus goes to what he did carrying the football. But people forget all of his contributions,” Pujol said of Roach, who eclipsed the record by 89 yards and also played linebacker and on special teams. “He did everything we asked him to.”

That let Pujol return other players to their natural positions. Jeremiah Pearcey, a fellow senior who began the season at tailback, returned to fullback, picking up yards while opening holes for Roach.

“That was key,” Pujol said. “Our season would have evolved differently if we didn’t have a player like Roy. ... How can you take away a player of Roy’s caliber and expect to do as well?”

Roach’s manner was unassuming throughout. “He’s not a recognition monger or anything,” Pujol said. “All he wanted to do was win.”

LaGrave, the Panthers’ captain, helped Kadena continue to mold its relatively new winning volleyball history. The Panthers have finished in the top eight in Class AA the past three seasons.

LaGrave racked up 89 spike kills in 171 attempts, a 94.1 serving percentage, 54½ block points and 61 defensive digs this season.

“Katie was likely the team’s best server, setter and passer as well as the team’s main net presence,” said Fred Hicks, the Panthers’ assistant coach and DODDS sponsor.

As team captain, LaGrave “showed both the leadership and maturity needed” for the job, Hicks said. The three-time All-Far East player’s skills “should allow her to play college volleyball if she wishes.”

The other Stars and Stripes fall sports awards:

Coaches of the quarter: In a field of deserving candidates, Sergio Mendoza and Steve Schrock gain acclaim for turning the Kadena Islanders football team — 1-17 the previous two seasons — into a 6-2 ballclub, winning their first five games by shutout and reaching the Okinawa island title game. Honorable mention to Kadena volleyball’s Hicks and head coach Rachelle Smith, and Guam High football’s Mark Franchino, who engineered a turnaround from 1-5 in 2002 to 4-3-1 this season.

Team of the quarter: No one stood taller on the gridiron than Yokota, which enters next season aiming to win a Pacific-record 40th straight game. Yokota won 39 straight from 1983 to ’90.

Most improved team: Kadena Islanders football, also poised for future greatness with Keith Loving, Terrence Crenshaw and David McCowan in the backfield.

Outstanding programs: The St. Mary’s International’s boys went unbeaten in the ultra-competitive Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools tennis and cross-country seasons. The American School In Japan girls teams completed their seventh straight unbeaten tennis and eighth straight perfect cross-country seasons. ASIJ tennis won the overall Far East tournament title; St. Mary’s took the boys team title.

Most improved program: Kadena gets the nod. Its football teams went a combined 13-4 after going 6-11 last year, the tennis program finished second in the Far East tournament and cross country went unbeaten on-island.

Football player of the quarter: Besides Roach, there was the Kadena Buccaneers’ all-everything senior A.J. Morgan. His 1,689 all-purpose yards, 19 touchdowns and six interceptions paced his team into the Rising Sun Bowl against Yokota.

Scholar-athlete of the quarter: Yokota senior Jason Correll, the senior class president, student council rep and National Honor Society officer, maintained a 4.0 grade-point average while being the heart and soul of Yokota’s interior. He led the team in tackles, was the long snapper on punts and kicks and opened running lanes for Roach.

Volleyball player of the quarter: Senior Jessica Nelson, Faith Academy, was the talk of the Class A Tournament in Taegu, South Korea, where she racked up 55 kills in 67 attempts in pacing the Vanguards to their first Far East title.

Tennis player of the quarter: Aska Dvorjak of Seisen International and Takashi Yoshii of ASIJ ran the table in Far East singles but Kadena’s Amy Lopes provided a glimpse of the tournament’s future. Lopes, a freshman, finished third in singles.

Cross country runners of the quarter: 2002 Far East individual champion Kim Lyle and fellow Kadena senior Cliff Johnson helped the Panthers to their second straight unbeaten Okinawa Activities Council season. Lyle also topped the OAC’s 13-year-old mile record by two seconds on Nov. 15. Will Carter, 2002 Far East boys champ, went unbeaten for Seoul American and led the Falcons to a 17-1 record, second-best in Korea. St. Mary’s J.M. Kwak completed a second straight perfect Kanto Plain season.

Trivia: A player once earned Class AA volleyball MVP honors, then later coached a team to the tournament title. Name her.

We are family: Faith’s Nelson is the youngest member of the most decorated family in DODDS-Pacific volleyball and basketball tournament history. Jessica, her older sisters Kirsten and Natalie and older brother Phil have combined for 19 All-Far East selections, three MVP awards and two volleyball best-hitter honors. Their father, John, is the headmaster at Christian Academy In Japan, which all four attended; Jessica transferred to Faith last winter.

Game of the quarter: The first contest this season in any sport, on Sept. 5 at Camp Zama, Japan. Trailing Zama American by nine points, Yokota rallied thanks to a 42-yard Roach TD run on a play in which he appeared to be stopped in the backfield. The Panthers edged the Trojans 23-18.

Play of the quarter: Five weeks later, at Yokota Air Base, things were looking mighty fine for Zama, which had Yokota backed up to its 10-yard line, facing third and 43, when the Panthers lined up in the old-school “Swinging Gate” formation. Quarterback Shawn Novak found Roach’s brother, Chris, a junior, streaking behind the Trojans secondary for a 90-yard scoring pass on a play called “open-field special.” Yokota again won 41-8.

Trivia answer: Marie Fernsler won the MVP award as a senior for second-place John F. Kennedy of Guam in 1995, then eight years later coached Academy of Our Lady to the Class AA championship.

Stars and Stripes’ Fall Athlete of the Quarter nominees

x-Aika Young, junior, girls volleyball, Academy of Our Lady, Guam.x-Jessica Nelson, senior, girls volleyball, Faith Academy, Philippines.x-Teri Tan, senior, girls volleyball, Morrison Christian Academy, Taiwan.x-Takashi Yoshii, junior, tennis, American School In Japan.x-Aska Dvorjak, senior, tennis, Seisen International, Japan.Megan Ward, senior, girls volleyball, American School In Japan.Riamond Cordero, sophomore, tennis, E.J. King, Japan.Lindsay Murchison, senior, girls volleyball, Robert D. Edgren, Japan.Dan Weckhorst, junior, football, Robert D. Edgren, Japan.Tory Curtis, senior, football, Guam High.Theo Tom, senior, football, Guam High.Joey Chop, junior, football, Guam High.Shella Mesa, junior, girls volleyball, Guam High.Marla Ivey, senior, girls volleyball, International Christian-Pyongtaek, South Korea.Brett Weaver, senior, cross country, International Christian-Uijongbu, South Korea.Amy Lopes, freshman, tennis, Kadena, Okinawa.A.J. Morgan, senior, football, Kadena, Okinawa.Cliff Johnson, senior, cross country, Kadena, Okinawa.Kim Lyle, senior, cross country, Kadena, Okinawa.Leonard Lynce, junior, football, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan.Carol Tully, senior, girls volleyball, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan.Paul Haecherl, sophomore, football, Kubasaki, Okinawa.Kyle Leab, senior, football, Kubasaki, Okinawa.Priscilla Umemoto, senior, tennis, Osan American, South Korea.Jackson Dayberry, senior, football, Osan American, South Korea.Brieanna Carroll, junior, cross country, Pusan American, South Korea.Eric Shimoda, senior, tennis, St. Mary’s International, Japan.J.M. Kwak, sophomore, cross country, St. Mary’s International, Japan.Megan Geiger, junior, tennis, Seoul American.Regan Geiger, junior, tennis, Seoul American.Jiovanna Bruce, senior, girls volleyball, Seoul American.Will Carter, senior, cross country, Seoul American.Paul Rader, senior, boys volleyball, Seoul Foreign.Julian Hahm, senior, boys volleyball, Seoul Foreign.Jitae Kim, senior, tennis, Seoul Foreign.Monica Naputi, junior, girls volleyball, Southern, Guam.Jhunnie Rios, senior, girls volleyball, Southern, Guam.Cari Bruschuk, junior, cross country, Yokota, Japan.Brian Elliott, junior, cross country, Yokota, Japan.Jason Correll, senior, football, Yokota, Japan.Shawna Vitarbo, junior, girls volleyball, Yokota, Japan.Darlene Seeley, junior, girls volleyball, Yokota, Japan.Jon Gilgenast, senior, football, Zama American, Japan.Lucky Montano, senior, tennis, Zama American, Japan.

x-automatically nominated as Most Valuable Player or individual champion of a Far East tournament.

author picture
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.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up