After two almost winless seasons, Zama ready to make noise
Stars and Stripes | .
published: September 06, 2016
CAMP ZAMA, Japan – There’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking off the field at the end of a football season victorious.
Zama did that Oct. 30 when the Trojans blanked Robert E. Edgren 21-0 in the season finale and second-year coach Scott Bolin says he’s hoping his charges can keep that feeling when the Trojans open the 2016 campaign Sept. 2 at Yokota.
“We ended last year on a high note and we want to carry that momentum into the season,” Bolin said during a recent practice session. “We have the capacity to compete with all the Division II teams. If we can put four good quarters together, we can be in every game. We’re so close.”
Senior Anthony Ames is a returning defensive back and slot back.
Toward that end, Bolin plans some changes on offense, moving away from the spread attack of last season to a running game mirroring that of Navy and Georgia Tech.
“We’re not in the gun; we’re under center now,” Bolin said, adding that should help with preventing turnovers that hurt last season. “We’ve made great gains in solving that issue.”
Carrying much of the rushing workload load will be senior running-back tandem Zach Dignan and Joshua Atkinson, who will also help fill linebacking roles in Bolin’s “attacking 4-2-5 defense.”
It will be a different look for the Trojans than it was with speedy twins Jaelon and Jaedon Baker, who’ve graduated. “We have some younger guys coming up to fill those roles,” Bolin said. “We have to move it around, be more purposeful with our tactics and have some of our athleticism step up.”
Kevin Grabski, a senior who began last season at quarterback, moves into the interior at center and defensive lineman. Nick Canada, a sophomore, takes over the controls under center.
Keeping opponents off the board may be a bit easier than it was a year ago, when the Trojans gave up 266 points; the defensive front returns intact from 2015, Bolin said.
Key to Zama’s fortunes, he said, will be finishing what it begins. The Trojans had chances in some of their games a season ago, taking leads early before their opponents seized control.
“We have some quality opponents; we have to take care of them first,” Bolin said of a grind that begins with road games at Yokota and Matthew C. Perry. Those two represented Japan in the last two Far East Division II title games, in which the Trojans have not appeared since 2012.
“If we can win some games early,” Bolin said, “we’ll have some fuel to feed off of and we’ll be able to finish the season stronger.”