Wide-open offenses on display as top teams meet
It’s worked successfully for years in the college game, it’s now working for NFL teams as well. Now, high school football teams throughout Japan have adopted the fast-paced pistol, spread option and read option offenses, two of them with Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools title hopes in mind.
American School In Japan, the last unbeaten team in the Pacific, travels to Yokosuka Naval Base on Friday for Nile C. Kinnick’s homecoming game. The Red Devils have one defeat, and need a win by six or more points to keep their Kanto title hopes alive. A win will give ASIJ its first title in four years.
But it’s the departure over the years from the ground-pounding attacks that both teams used to swear by, and adopting those wide-open offenses and being successful with them that causes longtimers like ASIJ defensive coach John Seevers to look back in wonder.
“It’s amazing how the makeup of Kanto football has changed,” said Seevers, who’s been with ASIJ’s program since the late 1970s. “It’s fun to watch. I think we’ll have some fireworks on Friday. You’ll have good athletes on the field. It should be exciting.”
Triggering those two offenses are three weapons, two who line up in Kinnick’s backfield and one under center for ASIJ, who have accounted for a combined 4,031 yards of offense and 53 touchdowns.
“They’re dangerous,” Seevers said of Red Devils senior quarterback Dustin Wilson and sophomore running back Dre Paylor. “You have to pay attention to them. (Paylor) is explosive. You let him get loose, he’ll hurt you. They’re a well-rounded team, one of the better Kinnick teams we’ve seen in awhile.”
As for ASIJ quarterback David Hernandez, “He’s an all-around athlete,” Kinnick coach Dan Joley said. “He doesn’t like to lose. Line him up at any position and he excels. He’s an impact player on both sides of the ball.”
Two other teams that have also gone airborne will tee it up at Yokota on Friday when Zama American comes calling; kickoff is also at 7 p.m.
The Trojans under coach Steven Merrell used to exclusively run the Wing T, but have scored most of their touchdowns through the air thanks to the arms of Nick Zeagler and Hunter Klein.
Since his arrival in 1999, Yokota coach Tim Pujol had gone with various sets such as the veer and power wishbone, with maybe three or four throws per game. Out of necessity since the Panthers’ line is far smaller than last year’s, Yokota has become a passing team with sophomore Marcus Henagan under center.
Saturday’s other game almost didn’t happen; Daegu at Kadena for the Panthers’ homecoming faced the budget ax due to the budget impasse in Washington, but DODDS approved the game on Tuesday, coaches of both teams said. Kickoff is 2 p.m. at Ryukyu Middle School.