Seventh in a series of DODDS Pacific high school football previews.

One of the elements critical to the success of a start-up sports program such as Matthew C. Perry football is not only if the team can win, but if the players approach each game with the confidence that they can.

That’s the battle facing coach Frank Macias as he prepares his Samurai for the first game Samurai football has played since a 41-0 shutout loss to Zama on Nov. 8, 2003.

Eleven years later and after two years as a non-varsity team, Perry will visit Zama on Sept. 13 for its first game since that date.

“Getting the kids to play and believe they can win,” said Macias, in his third year at the program’s helm. “We’re so isolated and small. It’s tough to not only have a program but be successful and get the kids to believe it.”

There’s no question the Samurai have the tools and some football experience, with 36 total bodies and 20 returning players - including 14 who started games for Perry. One, Jarell Davis, a senior, has been with Macias and the Samurai from the start of the reboot.

Perry football has its roots in a youth activities team that got off the ground for the 1996 season under Richard Elliott, who played alongside O.J. Simpson at Southern California.

They went 16-12 in four years as a youth team, then converted to DODDS in 2000 and went 7-20 over four seasons under Hank Groomes and Kevin Crone before disbanding after the 2003 season.

Gradually over the last two years, Macias says he’s getting together a large staff of assistants that share his vision, “that does things the way I want them done,” he said. “I’m kind of OCD about setting up things the way I want them done.”

But getting the players to believe they can play and win, that’s the challenge, Macias said. “Two years ago, we had 17 kids out. A lot of kids didn’t want to play, afraid they would get hurt. We still have good athletes not playing.”

On the flip side, those who do play are the sons of Marines, and they have been “great,” Macias said. “They’re very coachable, their parents have been hugely supportive. I’ve been coaching 16 years. I’ve enjoyed coaching here.

(Elsewhere,) there were some seasons I just wanted to get done.”

Now, it’s a matter of getting all the tools in the right places, get the program off the ground, aim for Sept. 13 and then the first Samurai home game on Sept. 27 against Sotoku, a Japanese school in Hiroshima.

There could be some growing pains.

“Lack of varsity experience. We have no players who’ve played a down of varsity football,” Macias said.

How competitive the Samurai will be in the face of that, how many games they will win, “I don’t know,” he said.

Come the Division II title game in November, after “we put things away” after the season, Macias said he’s hoping “we have a full blown varsity program for this year, next year and the year after. And I want to win this year. We’ll have the kids go hard and see what happens.”

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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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