Much will have to go right for Panthers to three-peat
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 06, 2016
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Some seasons, the talent and experience abound. Other years, teams may find themselves starting over.
Fred Bales says he doesn’t spend much time worrying, one way or the other.
“Every year is different in many regards,” said Bales, Kubasaki’s 12th-year coach who’s won five Okinawa district titles and two Far East Division I championships at the Dragons’ helm.
“Our job as coaches is always the same, year-to-year: Take student-athletes where we find them and do what we can to ensure they go forward. We define success one student at a time,” Bales said.
Kubasaki finished the last five seasons playing in the D-I championship game, winning one of them in 2013.
Decorating their roster during that span were the school’s career rushing leader, Jarrett Mitchell, and the Pacific’s total offense leaders the last two seasons, DeCurtis Davis and Isaiah Johnson.
But those days and those players have departed. Bales and his coaching staff find themselves pretty much starting over, with just two starters from last season, plenty of youth and not much size, especially in the interior.
“We’ve been senior heavy” in recent seasons,” Bales said. “Because of that, we’ve been a fixture in the title game. This is more a rebuilding year.”
This season’s Dragons have a wealth of juniors, whom Bales says he’s relying on to build the foundation of a new championship drive. The transfer rounds and the team’s unbeaten junior-varsity squad last season could also help.
Shawn Shortiridge takes over as Kubasaki's offensive coordinator -- the first season since Fred Bales has coached Kubasaki teams since 1999 that he won't be calling the plays during games.
Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes
One rising junior takes over under center and in the shotgun. Cameron McCall will get protection from the line’s lone holdover, senior Antony Gomez. Juniors Terane Pittman, Peyton Powers, Tristin Young and Jacob Kirkman and senior Josiah Hallett are all expected to see playing time.
Junior Josh Swen, a soccer player, will be tried at receiver. Bales, who recruited him out of his own sociology class, says Swen is “going to be a contributor.”
Senior Antonio Mitchell comes in from Northside High in Jacksonville, N.C., and will be a receiver and defensive back, the former a need since the Dragons lost deep threats Miles Mahlock and Jacob Green to graduation.
Senior running back-linebacker Braylan Pittman – Terane’s older brother – came in from Lowndes Academy, just west of Montgomery, Ala. “He’s big, strong and fast,” Bales said.
Senior Tim Rivers is a three-year Dragon who will be “moved around on offense,” Bales said. Senior Bobby Riegert can spell McCall at quarterback, play slot receiver, linebacker, even some guard. “He can do a lot of things,” Bales said. “A great young man.”
Bales will continue to show different defensive packages, depending on who the Dragons are playing, and will stick with the spread offense that netted so many yards for Mitchell, Davis and Johnson over the years.