MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI -- I think congratulations and a "job well done" are in order for the Matthew C. Perry Samurai high school football team and coaching staff. The season was short, but long in respect to attitude.
When the team started up, there were only a few players signed on to play. There weren't even enough players to field a special teams squad! The coaching staff was all new, including the head coach, not to mention that the coaches were all volunteers. The coaches had to become recruiters and saw to it that every high school boy was contacted and given the opportunity to play.
Little by little, the team grew to about twenty-two players. A large percentage had never played organized football before. Possibly, there were even some that had never touched a football in their young lives.
Then just when practice sessions started and some team-building characteristics were put in place, we all suffered the devastating blow of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The immediate reaction was for all military bases to implement force protection measures to ensure our personal safety and protect national interests. With these protection measures in place, the team had to stop practicing. Even through this delay, the team held together.
As conditions allowed us to return to a somewhat state of normalcy, the team returned to practice and began preparing for their first game. The coach made it clear that the team would be responsible for whatever the outcome would be. He also made it clear that he would be with them every step of the way.
The first game was a devastating defeat. The Samurai were outnumbered, mismatched by player size, and outmatched by a more experienced team. Most of the spectators that day left the stands with their heads hung in shame, somewhat embarrassed. However, the Samurai still held their heads high. They were beat down physically and mentally drained, but their heads stayed high!
The remainder of the season met with similar results, as the Samurai lost every game they competed in. The games were not as bad as the first though, and on a positive note, the point spreads were becoming smaller, indicating the Samurai had made improvements.
Most of the spectators see it as a losing season, and maybe that is true. However, I see something different.
I see a team that started out with little hope and direction. The coaching staff provided the direction and allowed the team to grow. The boys have moved toward manhood. They never gave up hope, and they learned to work as a team. They learned what teamwork can do for them for the rest of their lives. M.C. Perry finished the season with their heads held high and they never gave up the fight.
The Samurai lost the games but they were victorious in all other aspects. I am proud of all members of the team and look forward to next year. I think it will be one heck of a season!