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Daniel Burns, a 2008 Seoul American graduate who led the Falcons to the 2006 Far East Division I title, joins the Samurai staff as an assistant coach.
Daniel Burns, a 2008 Seoul American graduate who led the Falcons to the 2006 Far East Division I title, joins the Samurai staff as an assistant coach. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

First in a series of DODEA-Pacific high school football previews.

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan – Matthew C. Perry’s players and coaches couldn’t be happier to put the 2020 coronavirus pandemic-induced gap year behind them and get back to playing football.

But this Samurai team faces quite the uphill battle: It has mostly freshmen and sophomores to complement a tiny core of veterans from the team’s last complete season, 2019, when Perry reached its third Far East Division II football final in four years.

It’s also a small team in terms of physical size, especially in the interior. One of the hallmarks of Perry football, coach Frank Macias said, has been big, bruising, beefy players. But those are in short supply.

Coach Frank Macias said he views this coming season as one of his most stern rebuilding challenges since he arrived at Matthew C. Perry in 2012.
Coach Frank Macias said he views this coming season as one of his most stern rebuilding challenges since he arrived at Matthew C. Perry in 2012. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“We’re behind in terms of physicality, bringing the hammer, the ‘pain train’; it’s not there yet,” Macias said.

Macias calls this as stern a rebuilding challenge as he has had since coming to Iwakuni in 2012 and restarting the program from scratch.

“I had kids dying to play football” in 2012, Macias said of when he transferred from Mannheim, Germany, to reboot a program that had been shut down since 2004. “So, this is not quite back to the future for us.”

Seniors Zeke Santascoy and Roy Clayton bolster the backfield for the Samurai.
Seniors Zeke Santascoy and Roy Clayton bolster the backfield for the Samurai. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

The pandemic and the resulting shutdown of football in DODEA-Pacific had the Samurai players “used to being in their own bubble,” Macias said. Especially with younger players added to the mix, “suddenly you’re having expectations, standards, discipline; it’s not going to be easy” reestablishing the culture.

“On the other hand, I am thrilled that football is back,” he said. “The players have great attitudes; obviously, everybody’s glad to be back out.”

Helping with the rebuilding effort are four veterans from the 2019 season. Roy Clayton starts at quarterback and is joined by junior lineman Tyson Ortiz, senior fullback-linebacker Parker Staley and junior linebacker Kirby Kendrick. Macias said he’s hoping more players will come out when school opens Monday.

Senior Roy Clayton gets the nod at quarterback this season and is one of two placekickers for the Samurai. Holder Nickolas Elizondo, a sophomore, will back up Clayton and play linebacker.
Senior Roy Clayton gets the nod at quarterback this season and is one of two placekickers for the Samurai. Holder Nickolas Elizondo, a sophomore, will back up Clayton and play linebacker. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Perry also got a new assistant coach in DODEA-Korea product Daniel Burns, a 2008 graduate of now-closed Seoul American. He quarterbacked the Falcons to a 12-6 win in overtime over Kadena in the 2006 Far East Division I title game.

“He’s been fantastic,” Macias said. “Especially with the younger players; they like him.”

Perry’s competition is limited to DODEA-Japan teams and there won’t be a Far East championship game. The Samurai open at home Sept. 4 against Zama.

Macias said having no title to play for does have at least one bright side.

“It gives us a season to get us back to being oriented to playing football. Everything is a progression. A goal for us the next 2½ months is to get better every day.”

MATTHEW C. PERRY

Head coach — Frank Macias, seventh season. Returning players — 4. Returning starters — 4. Key performers — Roy Clayton, Sr., QB; Tyson Ortiz, Jr., L; Parker Staley, Sr., FB-LB; Kirby Kendrick, Jr., LB. Strengths — Small core of veterans who understand the Macias/Samurai football system. New assistant coach Daniel Burns played football in the DODEA (Seoul American class of 2008) and understands the expectations. Drawbacks — Inexperience. Coming off a gap year as is the case with all DODEA-Pacific teams, the Samurai are starting over with many suiting up having not played football before.

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