New season, same old story for the Guam High football team.

Since the school opened in 1997 and began fielding a team in the island’s Interscholastic Football League in the fall of 1998, the Panthers have faced the same problems building a team, year in and year out.

Their public- and private-school competition enjoys continuity, keeping the same coaches year after year and fielding the same players from the time they first put on helmets until they graduate.

By the very nature of it being a Domestic Defense Elementary and Secondary School, Guam High watches good players transfer in and out every few years. The coaching post has become a revolving door; Guam High has had four coaches in its six years.

This season, Mark Franchino, a retired Navy SEAL who’s in charge of the school’s Junior ROTC program, takes up the challenge and promises to do what he can to combat the obstacles facing the Panthers.

“We have disadvantages, but we will deal with them and do the best we can,” said Franchino, a retired chief petty officer from San Diego who’s worked at the school for a year and succeeds William Greer as coach.

The constant comings and goings are “a fact of life” at a DOD school, he said.

“We’re lucky to have somebody for three seasons, and it’s amazing if we’re able to keep somebody for four.”

The 46-year-old coach inherits a team of 24 that boasts eight returning starters. That’s a huge contrast to the league’s other six teams, some of which suit up as many as 60 players and list as many as seven coaches and assistants on their staffs.

Over the years, Guam High has enjoyed some high moments, such as the 2000 season, when the Panthers went 3-4, including the team’s biggest victory, 16-14 in overtime over five-time champion George Washington.

But the team has suffered many a one-sided loss en route to a 9-28 overall record that’s seen the Panthers outscored 1,284-350.

Employing an old-school T formation, Franchino is hoping a solid ground game, led by returning senior back Theo Tom, can keep the outcomes more respectable — and perhaps even include a few victories.

Will the day ever come when Guam High will welcome some corn-fed boys from Nebraska, a hot-shot quarterback, some speedy backs from Virginia and a few California-bred receivers and mold them into a powerhouse?

“That would be great,” Franchino said, adding, however, that he views the team’s situation realistically — that he and his players view things from what he calls a “professional” perspective.

“Grades and family come first, and football second,” he said. “We train really hard and work on strength and endurance. We take the cards we get and do the best we can and make it as fun for them as we can.

“Of course, I’d love to win, but if I’m competitive with the other teams, that’s great.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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