On offense, the two teams battling for the Far East Division I football championships look as different as can be: Yokota prefers an old-school double tight-end, full-house backfield approach to Kubasaki’s flamboyant spread packages.

But that’s where the contrasts end between the Dragons and Panthers, longtime Kubasaki coach Fred Bales said two days before his charges were to fly to Yokota for Saturday’s game. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Yokota’s Bonk Field.

“There are striking similarities,” Bales said despite Yokota’s run-first and Kubasaki’s spread-the-field approaches.

“Yokota is well-balanced. They distribute the ball well to a bunch of running backs. They attack all along the front and they can throw. Solid defense and a good kicking game, as we do,” Bales said.

Or maybe there are some more differences.

“We’re different stylistically,” coach Tim Pujol of Yokota said, disagreeing somewhat with Bales’ assessment. He had a chance to scout Kubasaki when it won 48-9 at Zama American last month, during which most of Kubasaki’s touchdowns came on big plays.

“It’s hard to simulate what they do, their timing and speed,” Pujol said, citing athletes such as running back Jarrett Mitchell and quarterback Cristian Rivera.

“Kubasaki is a dangerous team. They are powerful, explosive, they have a fantastic collection of athletes. They have excellent receivers and a swarming fast defense. They’re in the championship for a reason, and so are we.”

Another area of similarity is the teams’ ledger of D-I championships, or lack thereof.

Since the inception of the D-I playoffs in 2005, Kubasaki’s only taste of success came in that inaugural season. The next five years, the Dragons played piñata for island champion Kadena until the Dragons won the Okinawa Activities Council title this season by aggregate score.

Yokota is a bit more hungry. Despite 30 titles in 38 Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools seasons, 12 DODDS Japan titles in 13 seasons and five Rising Sun Bowl victories, the Panthers have nary a D-I title to their credit.

For that reason, “it’s a great matchup,” Bales said. “Yokota has a tremendous program, super-well coached, the kids are motivated, they’re the definitive team in the Japan district program for many years.”

Pujol spoke equally as highly of Kubasaki, and said in games such as Saturday’s, “there is no foregone conclusion. This is going to be a war.”

“It’s a great opportunity not just for both our teams, but a great way for Pacific football to end its season,” Bales said.

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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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