Okinawa has not been especially kind to Yokota football over the years. But it’s there that the Panthers must go to battle Saturday against Kubasaki, with host rights to next month’s Far East Division I football title game on the line.

The Panthers need wins Saturday and at home Nov. 3 against Kadena to secure host rights. Kubasaki needs only to beat Yokota on Saturday to play host to the D-I title game Nov. 17. Kadena’s in a deeper hole, needing Kubasaki to beat Yokota, then a home win over Yokota to force a three-way tiebreaker.

“None of this is a foregone conclusion,” said coach Tim Pujol, whose Panthers kick off at Kubasaki at 4 p.m. Saturday, a game to be simulcast on AFN Wave 89.1-FM on Okinawa and AFN-Tokyo Eagle 810-AM, along with a DODDS Pacific live stream Web cast.

Since 2007, the Panthers have gone 2-4 on Okinawa and have been outscored 170-82 in five games against Kubasaki and Kadena. “We don’t have the best track record there,” Pujol said.

Saturday’s game shapes up as a running-back battle. Arguably the Pacific’s fastest at the position, Kubasaki’s Jarrett Mitchell, takes his Pacific-leading 1,148 yards on 101 carries and 11 touchdowns against Yokota’s Raymond Butler (989 yards, 11 TDs, 67 carries) and Morgan Breazell (861, 10, 74).

Pujol and Kubasaki coach Fred Bales agreed that whoever controls the line of scrimmage will come out on top.

“We definitely have a championship-quality program coming to town, with big prizes at stake,” Bales said. “It should be a great game.”

Of the head-to-head and tiebreaker criteria, Bales insists he pays little attention to it. “I worry about the next game, taking care of business,” he said. “I can’t figure out all that stuff.”

What’s certain is home teams have done well in the D-I title game; every year since the inception of the Far East playoffs in 2005, the host team has won.

“We’re preparing for this game with a championship-game mentality,” Pujol said. “We have to win two games and it starts with this week. If we lose, we have to go home and play for our playoff lives, then have to come back to Okinawa and try to win it (title) there.”

One interested spectator Saturday will be coach Sergio Mendoza of Kadena, a three-time D-I title-game winner.H e’s faced with having to travel to Yokota while missing eight starters, including running back Justin Sego and quarterback Maverick Giron, each nursing leg injuries.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, Guam High goes for third place in the Interscholastic Football League when it hosts Okkodo at 7 p.m. Friday. George Washington aims for its second straight IFL title when the Geckos entertain Simon Sanchez at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Osan American visits Seoul American in the DODDS Korea season finale at 7 p.m. Friday. Nile C. Kinnick goes to American School In Japan for a Kanto Plain tilt at 6 p.m. Friday. Singapore’s Falcons play Daegu at Seoul American at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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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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