Five things observed in Kadena football camp
First in a series of visits to high school football practices around the Pacific.
Five things learned as the Kadena Panthers began summer workouts for the upcoming football season:
-- It’s not just that the many who’d never played ball entering last season have experience under their belts now, it’s how the team has “bought in” to the three qualities coach Sergio Mendoza says he stresses: “Commitment, accountability and love. We’re building men, not just football players. Teams that have done that have won.”
-- The offensive line really has Mendoza hopeful; from tackle to tackle, the Panthers average 250 pounds. The last line like that in the Pacific, Yokota’s in 2011 and 2012, won Far East Division I championships both years.
-- A huge concern will be replacing departed Gage Bongo and particularly D.J. Padilla at linebacker; the latter had a huge game for Team USA in the Tomodachi Bowl in March in what was his swan song in high school uniform.
-- The centerpiece player remains versatile running back Justin Sego, he of the 1,410 yards and 20 touchdowns on 177 carries, but who’s also a threat to do big things with the ball on special teams and on defense. This is his fourth year starting for the Panthers.
-- Key to Kadena’s fortunes will be “learning how to finish,” Mendoza said. While the Panthers have won Far East D-I championships in 2007, 2009 and 2010, “we’ve left three championships out there,” Mendoza said of losses in overtime in 2006 and last November and a one-point defeat in 2008.