New grid coach lowering the curtain on 'Zama drama'
The results were similar, but to Edgren football coach Jim Burgeson, his team’s encounters with Zama American this season and last were as different as night and day.
The reason? The Trojans’ demeanor.
When his Eagles beat them 14-12 on Sept. 18, 2004, Zama players argued with each other and coaches, taking personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties when it became clear Zama would lose.
Saturday, Edgren won 7-6 — but the Trojans, Burgeson said, remained sportsmanlike.
“It was such a pleasant change, seeing players play the way you should play and get out of it what you should get out of it,” he said.
Entering the season, first-year Zama football coach Victor Rivera said his main goal was to undo the Trojans’ entrenched “Zama Drama” reputation.
Helmet tossing, colorful language by players and coaches and other unsportsmanlike acts no longer would be tolerated, he said — and shirts and ties are mandatory for road trips.
It appears to be paying dividends, said Burgeson and Tim Pujol, coach of the Yokota Panthers, who routed the Trojans 49-0 Sept. 2 at Yokota.
After Saturday’s game, Burgeson complimented Rivera on the changed demeanor, saying, “That’s not an easy thing to do. That’s what made it so impressive. … He has affected a change in a short amount of time.”
Pujol cited the Trojans’ post-game handshake.
“Even though the outcome was clearly in our favor, each player looked me in the eye as respectful men and said, ‘Good game. You did a good job,’” he said.
“After any loss, most kids will be disappointed, especially if it’s your first game. I felt like the postgame was the biggest indicator of a new attitude at Zama. And the kids are buying into it.”
Any changes have not come easily, Rivera said. And there’s always the worry that such “old school values” won’t hold up if losses begin to pile up.
But “it’s taking hold,” he said after Saturday’s game, adding that he felt especially good about Burgeson’s comments. “That really gratified me.”
The change in Trojans Country, however, Burgeson said, also signals Zama should be a force in coming seasons.
“They’ve always had the athletes, the size and the speed,” he said. “They’ve just needed the right approach. If they keep this approach, they’ll be better than they’ve ever been.”
Team passes hat for Yokota coach’s family
Two of the thousands displaced by Hurricane Katrina were Pujol’s mother and aunt, who lost the home they shared in Gulfport, Miss.
On Sept. 4, Pujol flew to Knoxville, Tenn., rented a U-Haul, picked up his brother in Chattanooga and drove to Gulfport to relocate his mom and aunt to an apartment in Tupelo before returning to Japan on Sunday.
Following the Panthers’ practice the Monday after his return, his team handed him an envelope containing $400. The Panthers players had passed the hat while Pujol was gone, to help defer the relocation cost.
“That was an emotional moment and I don’t have too many of those,” Pujol said.
Dave Ornauer's Week 3 outlook
Friday, Sept. 16
Yokota 22, Kinnick 6
Father Duenas Memorial 24, Southern 7
Saturday, Sept. 17
American School In Japan 14, Zama American 6
Guam High 17, Simon Sanchez 11
George Washington 23, John F. Kennedy 8
Last week: 4-1, .800.
Season: 7-3, .700.