Posted by: mpreston67 | March 23, 2009

Team delayed in Tokyo

Due to a cargo plane crash blocking the runway at Tokyo Narita International Airport, Team Stars & Stripes arrived on Monday afternoon to discover their flight to Los Angeles was delayed ‘indefinitely’.

But it’s not all bad news.  When the team saw the Tokyo Bay Sheraton Grand Hotel near Disneyland, where they are staying overnight while awaiting a rescheduled flight home, frustrations were tempered considerably.  Any time there is an all you can eat buffet, especially with food as mouth-watering and diverse as what was on offer, football players are a happy bunch.

So, for those parents eager to collect their student-athletes from airports across the country, and for media planning to interview players early this week, there is the latest plan:

We will either:
A: Fly from Tokyo Haneda (domestic airport) at 8am to Osaka, arriving 9.10am and then from Osaka at 12.40pm to arrive LAX at 6am Tuesday.  Flights: NH015 to Osaka and SQ012 to LAX
B: Fly direct from Tokyo Narita at around midday, still expecting to arrive in LAX at 6am Tuesday.   Flight SQ012
Plan B is dependent on the runway being cleared overnight.  
The plan is for Singapore Airlines to pull through and get everyone rescheduled from their original Monday flights within the US to new flights. 
Hope to se you all soon.
Posted by: mpreston67 | March 21, 2009

Team Japan 38 Team Stars & Stripes 21

Team Japan surprised Team Stars & Stripes by triumphing over American opposition for the second successive Global Challenge Bowl in Kawasaki.

More photos are available at the group ‘Global Challenge Bowl’

Down 17-6 at halftime, having scored on the opening drive through a 19-yard Jason Simpson carry, Team Stars & Stripes made costly errors turning the ball over and Japan took full advantage.  The hosts scored two unanswered touchdowns to lead 31-6 going into the fourth quarter before the Americans mounted a late comeback.

Quarterback Brandon Cluff took advantage of good blocking on a broken play to rush into the end zone on third and goal and Andre Wells added two points.  A trick onside kick caught Japan by surprise and Team Stars & Stripes scored again on a Wells run to pull within 10 points after Maile Labor tagged on the extra point.

Despite another recovered onside kick, the ball was turned over on downs and Japanese quarterback and MVP Yuichirou Araki rushed for a touchdown to complete the 38-21 home victory.

The game opened brightly for Team Stars & Stripes when Stetson Shearer recovered a fumble by Shun Kitagawa and the offense pounded at the Japanese defensive line with running back Christian Ramirez and fullback Jon Wells.  Lining up in the wing-t formation, an inside counter saw Simpson dash 19 yards to open the scoring, but Labor’s extra point flew wide left of the uprights.

Neither team’s offense could move the ball on their next possessions and there was little to suggest Japan would blow the game wide open until the home team’s other quarterback Kazuma Okabe launched a 65-yard pass over the heads of the committed American secondary to receiver Jyunpei Yoshimoto for a spectacular game-tying touchdown.  Kicker Shoma Endou tagged on the first of his five extra points to give Japan a slim lead, which he increased with a 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, as Japan capitalized on a turnover.

Team Stars & Stripes might have been further behind during the first quarter, but for Trent DeBraga producing a crucial pass break as quarterback Araki threw the ball downfield with growing confidence.

An offside call against Japan on a fumbled Team Stars & Stripes punt saved the Americans from turning the ball over on their own one-yard line, but Japan were relentless and scored on a drive that started at their own 25-yard mark late in the first half.

Masaki Matsuoka turned a short pass into a significant gain through midfield, Araki found the same receiver wide open over the middle to take the ball to the 12-yard mark and capped the drive with a perfectly disguised reverse that allowed running back Shu Inoue to score virtually unchallenged for a 17-6 halftime lead.

The visitors’ mood at half time was one of optimism, rightly believing a few adjustments and the elimination of mistakes could turn the game in their favor.  That might have been the case had a pass destined for Josh Norman in open field not been tipped by Keisuke Shimazu on the opening drive of the second half.

Two possessions later, Araki orchestrated a disciplined drive that included an effective shovel pass to Kitagawa, who capped the drive with a one-yard scoring rush and a 24-6 lead.

Both teams fumbled away possession and when Team Stars & Strips coughed the ball up at their own 16-yard line, Japan struck the final blow and effectively ended the contest.  The shovel pass, this time from Araki to Inoue, gained 11 yards and a killer pass underneath with the American linebackers dropped back into pass coverage allowed Ryota Matsumori to dance 14 yards in for another score with 1.51 remaining in the third quarter.

As they had last year in the inaugural Global Challenge Bowl, Team Stars & Stripes mounted a fourth quarter comeback.  Quarterback Cluff improvised on a broken play and rushed 7 yards to reduce the deficit to 17 points after adding a successful two-point run. 

A quickly taken onside kick was recovered by Nick Wells and caught the Japanese off-guard, and the Americans put together their best drive of the game to score again.  Andre Wells hit Jon Wells for six yards then the full back pounded two first downs.  It was the first time Team Stars and Stripes had moved the chains on consecutive plays. 

Jon Wells had taken the ball to the two-yard mark and from there, Andre Wells dived in for a touchdown and Labor tagged on the extra point, making the score 31-21 to Japan.

The onside kick tactic worked again, Cade Warren this time coming up with the ball, but Team Stars & Stripes eventually turned the ball over on downs. Japan moved impressively downfield to close out the game and Araki fittingly ended his impressive night with a three-yard rushing score.

Of the time-sharing quarterbacks Brandon Cluff ended the night with 8 of 14 passes completed for 53 yards and rushed 5 times for 20 yards and a touchdown, while Andre Wells had 4 of 17 for 57 yards.  Araki hit an impressive 9 of 12 for 132 and a touchdown and rushed for 47 yards and a score, suggesting he will be an impressive leader for Team Japan in this summer’s IFAF Junior World Championship in Canton, Ohio.

Christian Ramirez led the Americans on the ground with 37 hard earned yards from 10 carries, while Jon Wells was the leading receiver with 3 catches for 40 yards.

Travis Freeman, Donny Mallin and Cade Warren all recorded sacks for Team Stars & Stripes and there were passes defended by Warren, Steve Caruso, Jason Simpson and Trent DeBraga

Post Game Quotes:


Jon Wells:
I was really proud to have this experience. The whole trip was just a great experience; I just wish we could have come out with a win. We played hard. We just didn’t have enough time to practice.

The atmosphere here is different. Between plays it was really crazy, but when get up to the line and snap the ball it was dead silence. We have never had that before.

 Japan is very fast and disciplined. They play really good football out here.

 This was one of the best trips I’ve been on. I would love to do it again. I am very glad I was chosen to do it.

 Jason Simpson:
It was really touching to hear the national anthem. It was a moment to soak up. It was really touching.

 It was fun to play in the game. We started off with a real high and we came down. It took us a while to get started again. It was a little too late. We gave it our all in the end. We played a great Japan team and they are going to go real far in the IFAF Junior World Championship this summer.

 Japan is quick of the ball. Surprisingly, they know a lot more about football than we think. I was really amazed. The player I was going up against, #21 (Jyunpei Yoshimoto), was relentless. I had to bring it every play and he was well conditioned.  He was a great player and the entire team is quite good.  They have been practicing a while, but regardless a great team.

 I can sum up this experience as I am coming back whether I am playing football or not. The football game was great, but I’m definitely coming back. I loved the experience.

 Andre Wells
It was emotional to hear the national anthem before the game knowing that we are in Japan representing our country. It felt good at the same time.

 The game atmosphere was very different in Japan. We have other people watching that don’t necessarily understand the game like we do in America. It was definitely great.

 The experience here was life changing. It was fun. My host family was great.

 Cade Warren
I was hyped when I heard the national anthem before the game. I was excited to play the game.

 The game atmosphere here was a lot different with the timing of the cheering. Other than that the people were pretty enthusiastic like back home so it was enjoyable to play.

 It was a fun game to play in!

Team Japan had a lot of good players. They were very quick players.

 Stetson Shearer:
I definitely got really psyched up hearing the national anthem. It brought the whole reality of the experience to me. I was excited and just pumped that I was going to have the opportunity to play for my country. So it all came together right there.

 It felt awesome to play. The first series was amazing. We caused a fumble that I recovered. It was awesome. There was so much energy. We just came out and physically dominated in the first series.

 Team Japan is very disciplined. They did not make many mistakes and we did. That was our flaw and they just had less flaws.

 I loved the trip. The game was fun, but it would have been a lot better if we won. The whole trip was fun though. It was a great time, great guys, and great coaching staff.

 Donny Mallin:
It was very exciting to hear the national anthem. It made the experience more real.

 The atmosphere was a lot different. It was a lot more exciting than usual because you don’t really know what to expect. I had a lot of fun.

 Overall Team Japan was a really good team. I thought we could have played a little bit better, but both teams were very good.

 I loved the trip!

 Trent DeBraga
This game was the first time that national anthem meant something being in a different country you really value the national anthem. You know you hear it all the time but it doesn’t really mean anything, because you hear it all the time. Being in another country, it just makes you proud to be an American.

 Oh man, what an experience. This is something I’ll remember the rest of my life. I can’t express how much it was an honor to be here and to play in the game.

Team Japan is good. If we had a little more time to prepare I think the outcome would have been different, but they are a good team.

 I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. It was awesome.

 Evan McKissack
It was wonderful, just being from the United States of America is a great honor, and to know all the people that have shed their blood for us. I look forward to going into the military, so it means quite a bit to me.

 I love the guys that I’ve met here. I think that was the most valuable experience here. The football game was just a side note.

 The Japanese are very well coached. They have a lot of time to spend together and practice. So I feel we did well for the amount of time we had to practice this week.

 Brandon Meckelberg
It was indescribable hearing the anthem. Everything just tightened up. You have that chill running up your back. It was just crazy.

 It was so much fun.

 This Japanese players, in between the whistles they are the hardest hitting kids but after they will help you right up.

 It was strange, during the snap of the ball it was really quiet and then we go in the huddle it would get really loud. So it kind of is opposite from in the states but it was so much fun.

 Team Japan is fast! Every time you go to catch a ball there is a guy right at your ankles or hips. And just boom!

 The experience was the best in my life! It can’t get any better than this.

 Jose Ramos:
It was very heartwarming to hear the anthem. It was pretty cool hearing it when we were all the way in Japan.

 Team Japan was well put together. They are more than what I expected.

 My favorite part of the trip was staying with the host family.


Box Score                                    1Q            2Q            3Q            4Q            Total

Team Japan                                    7            10            14            7            38

Team Stars & Stripes                        6            0            0            15            21

Team Stars & Stripes Offense:

Christian Ramirez (Salpointe, AZ)            10-37
Jason Simpson (Woodside, CA)            2-26
Achilles Flowers (Central Coosa, AL)            7-8
Josh Norman (Santa Rita, AZ)            2-4
Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez, AZ)            5-20
Andre Wells (St Josephs, OH)            13-38
Jon Wells (Santa Rita, AZ)                        1-10

Bruce Maldonado (Glen Oak, AZ)            1-5
Jason Simpson (Woodside, CA)            2-2
Christian Ramirez (Salpointe, AZ)            2-22
William Griffin (Tucson, AZ)                        1-27
Jon Wells (Santa Rita, AZ)                        3-40
Brandon Meckelburg (Wautoma, WI)            3-14

Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez, AZ)            14-8-53-0-0
Andre Wells (St Josephs, OH)            17-4-1-0-1

Travis Freeman            1           
Donny Mallin                        1           
Cade Warren                        1

 Passes defended:
Steve Caruso                        1
Jason Simpson            1
Trent DeBraga            1
Cade Warren                        1

 Team Stats                                    Japan                        S&S

First Downs                                    9 (1-7-1)            13 (8-4-1)
Passing (att-comp-int)                        17-10-0-202            31-12-1-110
Rushing (no. / yards)                        23-96                         40-143
Offense (no. / yards                        40-298                        71-253
Penalty (no. / yards)                        5-15                        7-24
Fumbles no. / lost)                        3-2                        4-2
Field Goals (att – made)            1-1                        0-0           
3D conversions                        2-8                        4-14
4D conversions                        0-0                        2-5
Possession                                    18’45                        29’15



Posted by: mpreston67 | March 20, 2009

Turning Japanese

Just a quick note to let you know that there are additional photos and information in Japanese at this website produced by JAFA and the event organizers:

If you dig around you can find everyone’s bios in Japanese…

Posted by: mpreston67 | March 20, 2009

March 20: Last day before the game!

Friday update by Lauren Hickey.


We had our first glitch with the weather today. Around 9am it started to pour right when Team Stars & Stripes was about to make their way outside for their final practice before the big game on Saturday. Instead of practicing in the rain, the coaches’ took the opportunity to discuss what to expect during the game tomorrow.


Once the rain let up, it was off to the field! During warm-ups, it was still raining lightly so I got to use my red umbrella for the first time this trip which I had been carrying around the whole week. Because here is my theory, if I’m prepared and have an umbrella it won’t rain but the second I don’t have one that’s when it will rain!


Luckily, the weather cleared up and it went back to the sunny days we have been used to which worked out perfectly because this afternoon the coaches’ held a clinic for the local Japanese coaches and players.


Since tonight is the night before the 2009 Global Challenge Bowl, the players are staying at the hotel that the staff has been at all week.


Tonight is a quiet night for everyone as we get prepared for the game. Coaches held offensive and defensive meetings to give final details to their game plan. The team had a team dinner at Shokudoen for a Korean barbeque. We walked as a team all decked out in our USA apparell and definitely got a few heads to turn! When we entered Shokudoen we removed our shoes and took our seats at low tables sitting on seat cushions. Then the food started to come out and didn’t stop for a long time! First we got soup, then the salad came out, then the meat! We got plates and plates of beef, pork, sausage, vegetables, and lots of rice! The food was delicious and I don’t think anyone left the place hungry. The team got a great meal that will help them compete in the 2009 Global Challenge Bowl that kicks off tomorrow at 2pm!


Here are some of the players pre-game rituals and superstitions!


Cade Warren (Bolles School, Jacksonville, FL): Only wears one sleeved Under Armour

Donny Mallin (Cathedral Prep, Erie, PA): Listens to music before the game

Brandon Meckelberg (Wautoma, WI): Writes bible scriptures on his cleats that pertain to the game

Trent DeBraga (Churchhill Co., Fallon, NV): Listens to his Ipod

Zach Stanopiewicz (McDowell, Erie, PA): Puts his right cleat on before his left

Antonio Tate (St. Joesph’s, Cleveland, OH): Prays before the game

Trevor Colvin (Santa Rita, Tucson, AZ): Listens to the same songs in a certain order

Jason Faipler (Cathedral Prep, Erie, PA): Wears the same undershirt and boxers for every game

Ken Brately (St. Joseph’s, Cleveland, OH): Listens to heavy metal music to get into the right mindset

Demitrius Burnett (Cesar Chavez, Phoenix, AZ): Listens to gospel music and prays

Raul Gonzalez (Tuscon, AZ): Takes a nap

Stephen Hayman (American School in Japan, Tokyo): Walks every yard both ways

Josh Norman (Santa Rita, Tucson, AZ): Runs to the endzone and thanks the man upstairs on one knee & wears chapstick in his shoe


GO Team Stars & Stripes!

Posted by: mpreston67 | March 19, 2009

March 19: Trip to ASAKUSA

Thursday update by Lauren Hickey  


After the morning practice at Kawasaki Stadium, Team Stars & Stripes jumped into two buses and headed to ASAKUSA – a Buddhist temple in Tokyo, Japan.


The weather could not have been more perfect for our latest adventure with very warm temperatures and a bright blue sky! When we first arrived, the players’ first mission was to find a place to get Yen so they can buy souvenirs to remember this once in a lifetime trip.


Next, it was time to explore. You were able to go into the temple which was an amazing sight. Many people inside were throwing money into the water to pray and make wishes. Outside of the temple was a well that you light incense to throw into the well. The smoke that this creates is supposed to heal whatever ailments or injuries you have. Stars & Stripes head coach Jeff Scurran advised his players to use this for any muscle soreness or injuries they had!


Shopping time! First I must say that we had at the most 1 ½ hours to shop. This caused me much anxiety! I had a list of things I wanted to get and did not want to forget any of my friends or family! In the end I feel we mastered the art of speed shopping and also made friends with this one Japanese woman that we spent most of our Yen at!


I was correct in my prediction about samurai swords! I think it was the favorite purchase of the day. I hope the players remember the proper technique from their high school visit yesterday. I also believe that some purchases were made for the parents, but I’ll keep that a secret! 


Another cool thing at the temple was a place to get your fortune. What you had to do was shake this cylinder and then turn it over until a wooden stick comes out. On the stick is a kanji which you match up to a box that contains your fortune.


Here is what my fortune is, and I’ll take a survey tomorrow to see what other players’ fortunes were.


“The moon in morning twilight still keeps on shining, it means an old man holds young energy too strong in spite of his age.   Talk with tongue entangled by your getting drunk, but gives no unpleasant impression to others.  There may be a little trouble in your family, but when you believe in God and ask for happiness, you can get calm down like to be in mid spring fine day.”


“Your request will be granted, but don’t hope so excessively.  The patient will get well but takes a long time.  The lost article appear later.  The person you wait for will come late.  Building a new house and removal are both well.  It is good to start a trip.  Marriage of any kind and new employment are both well.”


If you did not like your fortune or it said bad things you could tie it to this rod and it would take your bad fortune away.


After our adventure at ASAKUSA, we headed back to the buses to get the players to their host families. We thought that our day was over until Stars & Stripes coach Howell found a pick-up baseball game taking place right next to our bus!


He convinced the players to let him bat, and most of Team Stars & Stripes filed out of the bus to witness the event. As the cameras were flashing, Coach Howell took the first pitch that he felt was too low. After a couple more pitches and a couple missed swings, Coach Howell hit a line drive to the short stop. Not content with this hit, he asked for one more pitch, he missed! So again, he said one more pitch…this time he hit it over the fence and across the street…HOME RUN!


Once the team and coaches gave high-fives and said their good byes to the local Japanese kids everyone quickly filed back into the buses so we could get the players back to their host families to rest up and get ready for our next day in Japan!







Posted by: mpreston67 | March 18, 2009

March 18: High School Visit & Welcome Banquet

Wednesday update by Lauren Hickey, Kawasaki, Japan


It was another great day for Team Stars & Stripes. The weather was gorgeous and the team is right on track for Saturday’s game. The four late arrivals – Achilles Flowers, Jason Simpson, Steve Caruso, and William Griffin – were immediately welcomed to the good and by the end of the day you would never think it was there first day with the team!


Today was the first day with only one practice as the game is getting closer and the coaching staff wants to make sure all the players will have legs for the big day on Saturday!


After the practice, it was off to a Japanese high school for a cultural exchange! When we arrived, the whole group removed our shoes and sat on the floor in groups of three with a student from the high school to get to know one another. Connor Farquharson on a previous day asked if we always had to take your shoes. After asking he stated, “‘Cause my feet get cold.” I think he was having too much fun to remember his cold feet!


Some of the of girls giggled away about being next to big American football players and one male student was a big hit with Team Stars & Stripes as he walked right up to this group and high-fived the players! For the rest of the day, that was their buddy continually giving high-fives at every opportunity.


The team split up into two groups to do the activities the school had planned for us. Each group got to experience the art of Kendo – a Japanese sport of sword fighting, this was a big hit and will put money on it that many purchases of Samurai swords will be made in the near future!


The other activities were different depending on what group you were in. One group experienced a tea ceremony and learned Japanese activities.


My group attempted the art of Japanese writing. Here are some tips I learned, first you do not want excess ink on your brush, then it helps if you hold the brush straight up and keeping it pressed down for the whole swipe. You have to make each swipe only once, meaning you can not go over the same line twice.


As we practiced our writing, the group was taught how to write Japan which is broken into two kanji’s – Rising and Sun. When we thought we mastered the technique we then wrote a kanji of our favorite words on our fans. When I was looking around some of the fans were impressive, but come to find out the players are very persuasive and got the students to help them out!


After the high school visit, it was off to the Welcome Banquet where the players would meet their competition for the first time. Immediately waking into the room, the cameras started going off. Players from each team were taking pictures with one another and this would continue throughout the night.


Also at the banquet was all of the host families and it was very evident that they have developed a close bond with each other.  Parents and family of Team Stars & Stripes that made the trip over – the Faipler’s (Erie, PA), Warren’s (Jacksonville, FL), Gibson’s (Greenville, AL) and Evan McKissack’s father (Hoover, AL) attended the banquet and had the opportunity to meet the people their sons were staying with.


A player from each team addressed the people at the banquet, Kody Day (Sahuarita HS, AZ) spoke for Team Stars & Stripes thanking the city and people of Kawasaki for welcoming us to this great country.


And then the moment arrived, the much anticipated karaoke competition. Team Stars & Stripes was trying to redeem them selves from last year’s singing performance. Brandon Meckelberg (Wautoma HS, WI) walked up to the stage and began singing, his very impressive voice had everyone’s arms swaying in the air by the end of the song!


The Japanese player also had a good performance and in the end it was decided that it was a draw and the competition would be decided on the football field!



Posted by: mpreston67 | March 17, 2009

March 17: First night with host families

Update by Lauren Hickey – Kawasaki, Japan


The players of Team Stars & Stripes spent their first night with the host families, and each player came back with a different story to tell. But all the players said their families were very gracious and the hospitality was incredible.


Here are a couple stories of the players’ first night!


“We went to a restaurant where they served water in tiny little cups and we were really thirsty. They kept coming back to the table to fill up or glasses, but wouldn’t leave the water jug, so we kept drinking it and they must have had to refill out cups 20 times.” – Josh Norman, Santa Rita High School, Tucson AZ


“My host family was great. I’m staying with a family who has a 21 year-old son.  He plays tight-end at Tokyo University, so last night he got down in his stance so I could tell him if he had the proper technique!” – Brandon Meckelberg, Wautoma High School, Wautoma WI


Some players slept on futons and pull out beds while others slept on mats on the floor such as Darrin Emmeck (Somerset High School, WI) and says his back was a little sore but overall it was a great night!


In the morning, all of the host families wanted to make sure the team had plenty of food for breakfast to start their day off right! The families, not exactly sure what the team usually ate for meals, brought out as much food as possible to ensure they would have what they needed.


Here are some of the meals served:


Connor Farquharson (Fort Worth Country Day, TX): Noodles, hard boiled eggs, sausages

Kody Day (Sahuarita HS, AZ): Scrambled eggs, meatballs, cereal, bacon

Maile Labor (Santa Rita HS, AZ): Eggs, sausage

Adam Ward (St. Joseph’s, OH): Broccoli, asparagus, eggs, ham, assortment of fruit

Evan McKissack (Hoover, AL): Eggs, thick bacon and milk that “tasted like it just came out of the cow” 

Brandon Meckelberg (Wautoma HS, WI): Hot dogs

Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez, AZ): Tuna Salad


Once everyone got back to Kawasaki Stadium, it was off to the football field for their final two-a-day practices. The team is looking great with the defense and offense really coming together and it is had to believe the players have only been playing together for a few short days!


Global Football President, Patrick Steenberge helped out in practice as quarterback finishing the day 2-4 for 23 yards with no touchdowns and one interception!


As the practice was going on Team Stars & Stripes offensive line coach John Storey noticed some people on a roof near the stadium. Nervous that they could be spys looking to see what Team Stars & Stripes game plan was for Saturday, he asked Mike Preston to investigate the situation.


With Mike’s great detective skills, aka the use of his camera zoom, he assured Coach Storey that two of the people were women but none had cameras. Whew!


After the practices, the players headed to the train station to spend their second night with the host families which is an experience in itself which Trent DeBraga sentiments on.


“The station here is crazy.  There were people everywhere.  I have never seen so many people in one place.” – Trent DeBraga, Churchill County High School, Fallon NV.


Posted by: mpreston67 | March 17, 2009

March 17: Meeting with the Mayor

Every day during the Global Challenge Bowl, the event’s media team of Michael Preston and Lauren Hickey will post an update here on the official site of Team Stars & Stripes.

Tuesday update by Michael Preston – First of all, let me inform the familis of Achilles Flowers, Jason Simpson, William Griffin and Steve Caruso that our four late arrivals arrived safely at the Sunroute Hotel in Kawasaki along with the family of Jason Faipler at about 11.30pm tonight.

Before Lauren Hickey adds her blog to the website, here is a look at the press release that went out to media today concerning a visit to the Mayor of Kawasaki’s office…

Representatives of Team Stars & Stripes were officially welcomed to the City of Kawasaki by Mayor TAKAO ABE after the 45-player roster practiced in Kawasaki Stadium for the first time since their arrival in Japan.
Head Coach JEFF SCURRAN of Santa Rita (Tucson, AZ) High School, three players and Global Challenge Bowl organizers PATRICK STEENBERGE and SHINZO YAMADA were guests of Mayor Abe in his city chambers.  The group were joined by Team Japan head coach TAKAO YAMAZAKI and two of his players.
Linebacker TRAVIS FREEMAN from Cleveland (Ohio) Grenville School, running back / safety STETSON SHEARER from Burlington Edison (Washington) High School and female kicker MAILE LABOR from Santa Rita (Arizona) High School represented Team Stars & Stripes.  Running back MASAKI MATSUOKA and defensive lineman SHOTA TOMITA flew the flag for Team Japan.
The second annual Global Challenge Bowl kicks off at 2pm at Kawasaki Stadium on Saturday, March 21 in front of an anticipated crowd of 7,000 Japanese American football fans.  The Team Stars & Stripes roster of US high school all-stars, selected from 12 states and 27 high schools, will face the Japanese under-19 junior national team at 2pm local time.
“We are delighted to be back in your wonderful city again and always find the people of Kawasaki to be very gracious and welcoming,” coach Scurran told Mayor Abe.  “Your city is even more beautiful this year than I remember it being before.”
Organizer Patrick Steenberge added: “Thank you for inviting us.  We love your city and your people and we hope we are invited to return for many years to come.”
All three players had an opportunity to address Mayor Abe.  Linebacker Freeman said: “You have a very beautiful and safe city and the people are very nice.  I want to thank you not only for the opportunity to play this game, but also to line up against players from another country in a venue that is very different from what I am used to.”
Mayor Abe responded by telling the American and Japanese contingent: “We wish good luck to both teams and are sure that the fans and people of Kawasaki will enjoy the game.  I hope you enjoy your stay and the cultural experience.  We heard very positive things from the host families last year and they are pleased to welcome your players back into their homes.”
The players had a true taste of Japan on Monday when they spent their first night living with host families from the Kawasaki and Tokyo area.  Despite the unfamiliar surroundings of a new home thousands of miles away from home and some language barriers, the visiting student athletes all spoke of a positive experience.  Some are housed close to the stadium, while others travel to and from practice on the vast Tokyo train and subway network.
“The house where I am living seems to be a mix of traditional Japanese décor and modern styles,” said lineman ANTONIO TATE from Villa Angela-St Joseph in Cleveland, OH.  
Wide receiver TRENT DeBRAGA from Churchill County High School in Fallon, NV, added: “The train station here is crazy.  There were people everywhere.  I have never seen so many people in one place.”
On Tuesday morning and afternoon, the team had their first chance to practice at the venue for Saturday’s game, Kawasaki Stadium.  Quarterbacks BRANDON CLUFF (Cesar Chavez, Phoenix, AZ) and KODY DAY (Sahuarita, AZ) were the busiest men on the field as Team Stars & Stripes installed a passing game plan having spent two days at Yokota Airbase perfecting the ground attack.  The American team’s defense continues to impress and produced several interceptions to add to the run-blocking tactics that had proved effective in earlier practices.
Team Stars & Stripes will resume practices at 11am and 2.30pm on Wednesday at Kawasaki Stadium before attending a welcome banquet for both teams, VIP guests and media.

Posted by: mpreston67 | March 16, 2009

March 16: Final day at Yokota Air Base

Third update – Monday, March 16… Yokota Air Base & Kawasaki, Japan, By Lauren Hickey


Today Team Stars & Stripes spent their final day at Yokota Air Base that began with a 7am gathering to participate in a team bonding exercise of loading everyone’s luggage in the buses.  The team showed great teamwork forming human chains to skillfully pack the bags in the back of buses.  I decided it would be a good time to be a supervisor and designated cheerleader with the help of Athletic Trainer Cailee Welch. We are still in the process of coming up with our finalized cheers!


The team then headed back to the football field for another two practices as Team Stars & Stripes continues to prepare for the big game. The players are becoming more comfortable with each other and you can sense a real camaraderie among the players, especially on the buses which continue to get louder with the occasional singing which could help prepare the team for the Banquet on Wednesday since karaoke was a part of the evening during last year’s Welcome Banquet! 


During the practices, some players made their media debut as a member of Team Stars & Stripes being interviewed for Armed Forces Network (AFN). Alex Wulfeck (The Bolles School) was the first player to be interviewed and the weather was brought up for discussion. As a person who grew up in Vermont and currently lives in Massachusetts the 55-60 degree weather was borderline beach temperature for me, but punter Wulfeck was a little chilly on the football field who left 85 degree weather in Florida.


As they finished their final practice of the day, the team headed off to showers to prepare for the much anticipated meeting of the host families! There was an array of apparel that emerged from the lockers rooms from the US sweats to jeans and polo to a player pulling out a three-piece suit!


Leaving the Air Base, we witnessed another part of Japan – the traffic! Some players used the time to visit with their new teammates while other used the time to catch up on some sleep as one player we discovered has a nice and loud snore!


Finally reaching Kawasaki Stadium, the players and the host families sat on either sides of the room that was filled a nervous-excited atmosphere as they waited to be matched up for the week.


The first name was called – and the room filled with cheering similar to a NFL draft day and a Team Stars & Stripes player yelled ‘You’re the number one pick!’


Each of the players names were called, walking up to the front of the room to get their pictures taken with their new host families and out the door they went to get the ultimate Japanese culture exposure.


I am sure there will be some great stories from their first night discussed at tomorrow morning as they have their first practice at the Kawasaki Stadium! 















Posted by: mpreston67 | March 15, 2009

March 15 – On the practice field

Every day during the Global Challenge Bowl, the event’s media team of Michael Preston and Lauren Hickey will post an update here on the official site of Team Stars & Stripes.

Second update – Sunday, March 15, 7.30pm… Yokoto US Airbase, Tokyo, Japan, By Michael Preston:

Well, if they weren’t tired this morning after a long flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo, then the players of Team Stars & Stripes should certainly be ready to get off their feet tonight after not one, not two, but three practices on their first day in Japan.

The team set foot on Japanese soil – American soil technically since we are on the Yokota military base – for the first time when they hit the practice field at 10am after a relatively leisurely start to the day.  Having worked on positional drills for the morning session, coach Jeff Scurran worked them hard in an afternoon scrimmage and also took the team out for an evening walkthrough.  At the time of writing at 7.30pm Tokyo time, the PR team is working away on lap tops, while the football team is under lights perfecting their game plan.

Brandon Cluff (Cesar Chavez) is emerging as a strong candidate for the starting quarterback job, while overall the team looked impressive in their first practice together.  Team Stars & Stripes has more size and perhaps even a touch more intensity than their 2008 counterparts so it is already intriguing to consider the outcome of the game next Saturday.  

The kicking game already looks strong. Female kicker Maile Labor was accurate and consistent, while punter Alex Wulfeck earned some oohs and aahs from the hangtime and distance he produced with almost every punt, even when going into the wind.

The weather was kind to the team today with warm sun and an occasional light breeze, though once the sun went down, the temperatures dropped.  More of the same is expected on Monday.

Breakfast and dinner were taken at the Samauri Cafe, where banging a gong (loudly in our team’s case) to convey that the food on offer met with your satisfaction has become a very popular pastime.  The food prices are certainly appealing with the subsidized meals not burning too much of a hole in organizer Patrick Steenberge’s pocket.

Lunch took the team to an American-style food court and mall on the base where Subway seemed to be the preferred healthy choice for most of us and instead of a Dollar Store, the group found a ‘100 Yen Store’, which when you do the monetary conversion… yes, you’ve guessed correctly.

Oh, before I forget, I promised out Equipment Manager Jose a mention for the fantastic work he does and must stress that he is the hardest working member of our traveling party (ok Jose, bring that jacket I’ve been asking for to room 1082 please).

I hear buses pulling up now, at 8pm, so that gives the team 12 hours before they hit the practice field again tomorrow.  They’ll get some sleep if they’re smart.

Photos – there should be some photos from the practices appearing on this blog soon.  Please check the ‘photos’ link on the right bar, or search ‘psteenberge’ on for Global Challenge Bowl photos.

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