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COMBINE MARKS OPEN OF TRAINING FOR GUAM HIGH FOOTBALL

The Guam High Panthers traveled to Japan this week to practice against Yokota Panthers in preparation for the 2019 season and Kubasaki Dragon.

By Dave Ornauer

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Turns out, Jacob Dowdell had his eye on more than just the Tomodachi Bowl when he and several of his Guam High players traveled to Japan for the friendship football game on March 10.

Dowdell and several coaches from DODEA Pacific football teams talked during the three-day visit in March about staging a summertime combine prior to the start of the 2019 football seasons.

The result: A three-day get-together featuring the host Yokota Panthers, the defending Far East Division I champion Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils, the Kubasaki Dragons of Okinawa and, of course, Guam High.

“We talked about this there (Tomodachi Bowl) and said it didn’t make sense for us not to do it,” Dowdell said. “We’ve gotten more quality reps up here in these last few days than we will all season on Guam.”

The schools got together Tuesday through Thursday to work on conditioning, fundamentals and play execution. They finished the three-day event with a 90-minute scrimmage on Yokota’s home Bonk Field.

“You start football camp six weeks before the season, and after awhile, you get sick of just hitting your teammates” in practice, said coach Dan Joley of defending Far East Division I champion Kinnick. “You want to see what else is going on out there.”

Each of the four schools brought at least 12 players with them to the combine, along with multiple members of the teams’ coaching staffs.

DODEA Pacific did not fund the camp nor the travel to it, but gave the combine its blessing, Joley said.

Coach Fred Bales, in his final season at Kubasaki’s helm, called the gathering and what his players took from it “extraordinary.”

“You’re learning, you’re making new friends, you’re expanding your vision moving forward, not just about football or school, but about life,” Bales said. “This was a super-positive experience for the players, and the professional development for the coaches is huge.”

Kinnick quarterback Patrick Kelly, a senior, had done something similar with his teammates three seasons ago when Kinnick, American School In Japan, Zama American and Yokota did a one-day combine.

But this is believed to be the first time something like this has involved inter-district schools.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Kelly said.

Kinnick assistant Larynzo Abernathy, Class of 2007 and a former DODEA Japan rushing champion, said such a combine mirrors some of the camps and 7-on-7 preseason tournaments done in the States.

“It would have been nice” if such a combine had been around in Abernathy’s day, he said. “To build that camaraderie with the different schools, this is as close as it gets. You can’t beat that.”

The highlight of the week was the scrimmage, which featured the teams either playing at themselves or mixing and matching with others. There was even something of a crowd on hand; a good 50 people, mostly players’ parents were in the stands to watch.

Asked if he would like to see this expand to include more teams in future years, host coach Tim Pujol of Yokota said: “I would like to.”

“There are a lot of positive takeaways from this week,” Pujol said. “Maybe other schools might see that this is worthwhile. Maybe this can rotate each year. Who wouldn’t want to go Guam?”

photos taken by Dave Ornauer

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