After toppling Mt. Fuji, Nile C. Kinnick aims high for upcoming season
Story and photos by Greg Mitchell, CFAY Public Affairs
More than 50 members of Fleet Activities (FLEACT) Yokosuka’s Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils football team summited Japans’ highest peak Aug. 18 prior to kicking off their 2014 season.
The climb was a symbolic undertaking for a Red Devil team that finished 7-5 in 2013, their first winning season since 2006 and took the Department of Defense Schools (DoDDS) Japan Championship the first in school history with a 5-1 record.
Coaching staff say they feel this is the year for even bigger and brighter things for the Red Devils.
“We have all the pieces in place to win the Far East Championship,” said varsity head football coach Dan Joley. “We just have to figure out where to put them.”
One of those pieces are the big shoes of graduated senior quarterback Dustin Wilson. Three Red Devils are contending for Wilson’s spot and Wilson, will be a tough act to follow. He amassed more than 1,800 yards total offense in 2013, tying the DoDDS Japan single-season record for touchdowns with 30; 2,257 yards and 33 scores overall.
“George Calbert, Kyle O’Brien and Joshua Thompson are all fighting for the starting quarterback position,” Joley said. “Each of them has experience running the offense but not at quarterback.”
Despite Wilson’s departure, Joley says he feels nothing but positive about this years’ crop of players.There are a total of 22 returning players, 13 of which are on the varsity-level, Joley said.
One of the new additions to the team is the 2014 DoDDS Track and Field Far East 100 and 200 meter champion, Jabari Johnson.
“Johnson is an interesting addition to our team,” Joley said. “It’s going to be fun to try to figure out where to put him to get the most out of that speed of his. More importantly, I feel that we have two critical components that will make us a championship team; our offensive line and number 20.”
Number 20’ happens to be junior running back Dre Paylor, who became the second running back in Pacific football history to eclipse the 2,000-yard rushing mark in a season, with 2,002 yards on 250 carries.
Wilson and Paylor could not move the chains the way they did last year without the presence of the group up front. Comprised of Kai Warford, Tyler Shilton, Chris Diebel, Taikai Martin and co-team captain Ian O’Brien, the 2013 Red Devils tallied up 4,766 yards of offense, 48 touchdowns and 380 points, an average of 32 points per game. Warford, Diebel and Martin all return with a few new faces moving up from junior varsity.
O’Brien, along with defensive ends Shilton and DeAnthony Evans have departed, but remaining upperclassmen such as senior linebacker George Calbert, last years’ leading tackler with 86 stops give the Red Devils a chance to challenge.
“We have a pretty good looking group here,” said defensive coordinator, Kevin Warford. “One thing that stands out for me is the fact that we have a lot of speed. When you look at us from afar, we are not as tall as we were last year but, we have a better pool of athletes this time around. I see some good hitting, as well as good technique. I also think that some of our junior varsity players may push some of our upper classmen. They are showing a lot of promise.”
At the junior varsity level, coaches feel that grooming players is the key to a successful 2014 campaign.
“We have some good athletes that we are developing into football players,” said junior varsity offensive coordinator George Calbert. “We have a good returning group that we are still developing and we are solid up front on the offensive line.”
“We want to work on how to get the most out of what they (the players) got, but more importantly before all that, I think the biggest thing is teaching them how to take care of their bodies,” Calbert said.
“We run the same system as the varsity does,” Calbert said. “We keep it basic because when they get to varsity they will have some familiarity with it.”
Joley said the team will be ready and the bonding experience of the Fuji climb will be an understood lesson to his team.
“I told the players that climbing the mountain will mirror what you do in the season,” Joley said.
“Climbing Mt. Fuji is a microcosm of what a high school season is like. It starts out hard but, when you get to the top, you feel like you’ve done something special.”
Nile C. Kinnick’s football season officially begins Sept. 5 with a raod contest against Zama American High School at Camp Zama, Japan.