Kadena edges rival to retain Far East crown
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Winning Far East finals by the barest of margins have become old hat for Mike Callahan and his star striker son Yuji; they’ve won two straight by identical 1-0 scores.
This time, the winning goal waited until midway through the second overtime, when versatile senior Drew Ancog knocked in a corner kick by the younger Callahan, providing the only scoring in a victory Thursday over Kubasaki at Kadena’s Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field.
It was far different from the regular-season matches the two teams played; Kadena won the island season series 3-0 and beat the Dragons in Far East pool play, outscoring Kubasaki 13-4 in their four meetings.
“When it comes time for Far East, the defenses lock down and it becomes hard to get the goal,” Mike Callahan said. “We had been pretty dominant all year. I have a lot of respect for Coach (Chris) Eastman and the Dragons, and we just happened to get the lone goal.”
Ancog, a senior, tended to get lost in the long shadows of Kadena’s established stars such as Yuji and Junta Callahan, Kai Heckerman and Matthew LeMasters, but became something of a late riser for the Panthers in the Far East run-up, Mike Callahan said.
“He’s been a kind of utility player for us, I’ve been playing him almost anywhere,” Callahan said. “Today, he was in the right place at the right time and took advantage of the opportunity.”
On the defensive end, Callahan said players such as Tristan Hyden and Jakob Weicht did “ a great job of shutting down” Kubasaki’s main scoring weapon Imani Washington.
“It was a total team effort,” said Callahan, whose Panthers finished 17-2-2. “The kids bought into our program, put aside their individual goals and this was the result.”
It was Callahan’s fourth Division I title and for his son, the second straight Far East in which he captured Most Valuable Player honors.
The match began under cloudy skies, and as it progressed, rain began falling, first a slight drizzle, then a steady thrum, finally a downpour that made footing a challenge. “On a wet field, you’re not going to get many chances,” Eastman said.
But with veterans such as Yuji Callahan, many Kadena set pieces become scoring opportunities, and “that’s what this was,” Eastman said of Ancog’s goal and Callahan’s assist. “The corner kick is dangerous, and they got one.”
Absent the four losses to Kadena, the Dragons went 13-1-3 this season.