Things learned at Zama football camp
Fifth in a series of quick hits on high school football practices around the Pacific.
For the first time in nine years, Zama football faces a new season with a new head coach, something of a new system and renewed hope that the Trojans can put the program’s first winless season since 2008 behind them.
Scott Bolin is in his fourth year with Zama football, but in his first season as head coach. He worked as an assistant the last three seasons, as did defensive coordinator Tom Dignan (now Zama’s athletics director), under Steven Merrell, winner of two Far East Division II titles who returned to his native Oklahoma following the 2014-15 school year.
Bolin plans to open things up with a spread-option set after many years of Zama running a hybrid Wing-T offense. The Trojans possess speed, some size and experience at the skills positions, in seniors Keiyl Sasano, twins Jaelen and Jaedon Baker and junior receivers Curtis Blount and Joshua Atkinson.
Where the Trojans may be strongest, though, is on defense. The Baker brothers will be utilized as edge pass rushers, and Dignan says the linebacking corps can cover sideline to sideline. Zama will implement four-man fronts on defense, with a nickel package to try to slow down the spread packages that DODDS Japan Division II rivals Robert D. Edgren, and at times Yokota, can bring to the table.
Like most D-II programs, depth is something of a problem at Zama. D-II teams in DODDS Pacific have been known to field solid first 11s on each side of the line, but with few backup options in case of injuries or other circumstances that can sideline players.
If the practice demeanor and the optimism of the coaching staff is an indicator, the Trojans appear to have fun during workouts, and the coaches are hopeful that enthusiasm could mean the end of a three-year drought and a return to the D-II title game the Trojans last reached in 2012. They have two D-II titles and four title-game appearances from 2009-12.