Second in a series of football previews at DODEA-Pacific High School.
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Dylan Tomas had barely been fitted with his helmet, shoulder pads and No.7 Yokota football shirt when the Panthers’ new starting quarterback learned who he and his Panthers would face in the game of opening of the season on Saturday: his former Robert D. Edgren team.
“I built a brotherhood with them,” Tomas said of the Eagles, who he started with two seasons ago. “But coming here, I feel the same energy. I think we can build the same here.
Tomas started for the Eagles in 2019 and took a hit for a team that only made 1-5. The coronavirus pandemic has turned 2020 into an off-season, and Tomas looked set to start for Edgren this season.
But her mother, Debbie, a long-time DODEA employee, served as a school nurse at Mendel Elementary School in Yokota, leaving Misawa after six years – and as a byproduct, curing what made hurt the Panthers football team entering this season.
“It answered our biggest question of the offseason: who’s going to play quarterback,” said Tim Pujol, in his 22nd season as Panthers coach. Its last incumbent, Brody Choate, was transferred over the summer.
So far, Pujol and Tomas’ teammates say they are seeing good things, especially the effort he put into practice, which started on August 9.
“Dylan is talented and smart, and it’s a good combination,” Pujol said.
“He’s doing good things for us,” said Kai Harbert, a senior lineman and one of two returns in Yokota’s 2019 season in which they were 3-4. “At first we were worried because we didn’t have a quarterback. Thanks to him, the team is doing quite well.
For his part, Tomas says the Panthers welcomed him and immediately made him feel like he was part of the squad. “Everyone here is genuine; they welcomed me as if I was part of the family.
Like all DODEA-Pacific teams, the Panthers are starting over after the COVID-induced sabbatical year. While Yokota has always had high expectations, Pujol says it will take time for the team to regain their pace.
As for Saturday’s meeting, Tomas’s former assistant coach at Edgren Marcus Thomas says he looks forward to the reunion.
“We can’t wait to see him on the field,” Thomas said of Tomas, who he also coached as the Eagles’ baseball assistant last spring. “He is an extraordinary athlete in all the sports he practices.
The 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 of 2019 – 8.
Return Entries – 3 (including a 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 offensive. Good height in the line, quickness in the backfield and other skill positions.
Disadvantages – Lack of depth, lack of experience; the list mainly includes freshmen and sophomores. The Panthers will not field a junior varsity team for a fourth consecutive season, which never happened until 2017.