Support our mission
 
New Yokota starting quarterback Dylan Tomas opens the 2021 season against his old team, Robert D. Edgren.
New Yokota starting quarterback Dylan Tomas opens the 2021 season against his old team, Robert D. Edgren. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

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

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Dylan Tomas had barely been fitted for his helmet, shoulder pads and No. 7 Yokota football jersey when the Panthers new starting quarterback learned whom he and his Panthers would face in Saturday’s season opener: His old Robert D. Edgren team.

“I built a brotherhood with them,” Tomas said of the Eagles, for whom he started two seasons ago. “But coming here, I feel the same energy. I think we can build the same thing here.”

Tomas started for the Eagles in 2019 and took a pounding for a team that went just 1-5. The coronavirus pandemic turned 2020 into a gap season, and Tomas appeared set to start for Edgren this season.

But his mother, Debbie, a longtime DODEA employee, took a position as the school nurse at Yokota’s Mendel Elementary School, leaving Misawa after six years – and as a byproduct, curing what ached the Panthers football team entering this season.

Tim Pujol is in his 22nd year as coach of Yokota Panthers football.
Tim Pujol is in his 22nd year as coach of Yokota Panthers football. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“That answered our biggest offseason question: Who’s going to play quarterback,” said Tim Pujol, in his 22nd season as Panthers coach. His last starter, Brody Choate, transferred over the summer.

So far, Pujol and Tomas’ teammates say they see good things, particularly the effort that he’s put in during workouts, which began on Aug. 9.

“Dylan’s talented and smart, and that’s a good combination,” Pujol said.

“He’s doing good things for us,” said Kai Harbert, a senior lineman and one of two returners from Yokota’s 2019 season in which they went 3-4. “We were worried, at first, because we didn’t have a quarterback. Thanks to him, the team is shaping up pretty well.”

For his part, Tomas says the Panthers took him in and made him feel a part of the group right away. “Everyone here is genuine; they welcomed me like I was part of the family.”

It's a young Panthers team, largely comprised of freshmen and sophomores, but with some size in the interior and quickness at skills positions.
It's a young Panthers team, largely comprised of freshmen and sophomores, but with some size in the interior and quickness at skills positions. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Like all DODEA-Pacific teams, the Panthers are starting over after the COVID-induced gap year. While Yokota historically has held high expectations, Pujol says the team regaining its rhythm will take time.

As for Saturday’s encounter, Tomas’ former assistant coach at Edgren, Marcus Thomas, says he’s looking forward to the reunion.

“We can’t wait to see him on the field,” Thomas said of Tomas, whom he coached as an Eagles baseball assistant last spring as well. “He’s an amazing athlete in all sports he plays.”

Yokota Panthers

Head coach — Tim Pujol, 22nd season, overall record 146-48, 15 DODEA-Japan titles, 14 Kanto titles, five Rising Sun Bowl championships, two Far East Division I titles. Returning players from 2019 — 8. Returning starters — 3 (including one move-in). Key performers — Caleb Jones, Sr., WR-DB-P-KR; Kai Harbert, Sr., L; Dylan Tomas, Jr., QB (transferred from Robert D. Edgren). Strengths — A quarterback tailor-made for Pujol’s offense. Good size in the line, quickness in the backfield and other skills positions. Drawbacks — Lack of depth, lack of experience; roster includes mostly freshmen and sophomores. Panthers won’t field a junior varsity team for a fourth straight season, something that never happened before 2017.

twitter Email

around the web

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up