UNDEFEATED MUSTANGS READY TO WIN
As the only undefeated team in the National Prep Football League (NPFL), the Mustangs Football Team say they are comfortable with their chances against the Assassins in their championship game tomorrow, according to the Mustangs Head Coach Ben Sauvao.
The No.1 seed in the American Samoa National American Football Federation’s – National Prep Football League, the Mustangs Football Team pose for a team photo. They are looking to defend not only their undefeated record, but will try to close off the 1st NPFL here in American Samoa as the best team under ASNAFF. [courtesy photo]
The first championship title game hosted in American Samoa under the management and supervision of the American Samoa National American Football Federation (ASNAFF) will be held at the Veterans Memorial Stadium tomorrow morning at 9am.
The undefeated Mustangs, a team of 21 players, consists of a solid core group who are all former American Samoa All-Star Football players.
The Mustangs Head Coach emphasized to Samoa News that their focus leading into tomorrow’s match against the Assassins is to keep a clean record and maintain their undefeated caliber of performance.
“The main goal is winning, except winning isn't everything to me – but seeing them play together as a unit, having fun as a unit is an equation that sums up to victory."
He said, "I have no game plan or strategy as to what we're going to bring out on the field tomorrow, that's all left up to my players. My main focus for this match is to make sure that these guys are synchronized as a unit every time they walk on and off the field, keeping them intact and focused on teamwork and group effort. They know what to do, all they need is a leader".
According to Sauvao, his overall team is composed of experienced players who were at the top of their game during their high school years.
“Some of them even made it to universities, two-year colleges, I know some of them got injured, which led to them leaving the sport behind. Some of them missed out because of their academic results. Our Samoan kids love this sport, some even believe that we Samoans were made for this game – but our weakness are always within the classroom – this is where this second chance for another shot comes in, and I'm thankful to Ethan and his staff for putting this together as a program to rehabilitate our kids, getting them back into that motivated place of believing that this effort will conclude in a productive future and a second chance for them.”
Sauvao continued, “They just need to get back into believing that this is a second chance for them to get back into playing college ball. As for playing the game— the players on my Mustangs team already know how to play the game.”
“We are just a team that is trying to develop, and I'm enjoying the experience of coaching these experienced players at the same time. When we first started, I felt a vibe from these guys – some of the kids had doubts within themselves as to where all this is going. They're all experienced, high caliber players, some of them were Division I scholars – but they doubted the leadership within themselves. That's where I came in.”
He added, “For me personally, I'm not very experienced within the sport of football – I'm familiar with the skills of coaching from managing some of the volleyball teams here on island. You can ask me anything about volleyball, I got your answer, but with football I'm still absorbing it – the key role I play is to coordinate, manage, supervise, and be a guide for these guys in the process of getting them back on the field."
According to Sauvao, the Mustangs football team consists of “99 percent” experienced players.
“We only have one player on our team that is freshly introduced into the sport of football, but overall – all these guys are more experienced in the sport than I am. Some of them should be coaches with the knowledge they have, but they've chosen a path of getting back into those helmets and pads so I'm very comfortable with where we're at right now.”
Deciding to help the youth of American Samoa go for a second chance in life, Sauvao told Samoa News that his personal goal is to promote the ASNAFF and their program because “it's the sport our Samoan kids perform at best.”
He stated, “I love the youth and I see that they love the sport of football, but there's no leadership there to guide them towards the path of playing football here in American Samoa after high school.”
“Most of these guys give up after high school. They've grown to believe that there's no room for football here on island after high school – but now they have a chance at college opportunities as well as other league opportunities in the world, like the Canadian league or the Arena Football League."
He said, “If not off-island, we can play it for the love of the sport here on island, we just never had a solid program for the college level age group, or something for these kids who have graduated from high school. The reality of it was, it’s either college ball off island, or no football at all here in American Samoa. Now, finally we have something for our kids to lean towards after high school.”
Looking ahead for ASNAFF after their title game tomorrow, Samoa News asked Sauvao what he thought of the chances of American Samoa winning against New Zealand when the team departs the territory on the 16th of July.
Sauvao responded, “I know without a doubt that New Zealand doesn't have a chance against our boys in this sport, but the focus should be on – getting there."
He said, "This is our sport, it's our game. New Zealand is founded on rugby and it's what they're known for … I'm a 110 percent confident and comfortable that we will literally introduce those Kiwi's to how we play on the grid-iron here in American Samoa.”
Sauvao pointed out however that “the main focus should be helping these guys with their airfare to be able to make the trip. Most of them aren't going because they can't afford the plane ticket, but if I had a lot of money, I'd pay for all of them to go so we can assure New Zealand that the sport of American Football belongs to American Samoa within our Oceania region.”
ASSASSINS FOOTBALL TEAM PREPARED TO TAKE BRAGGING RIGHTS
The American Samoa National American Football Federation (ASNAFF) will be hosting their final action packed football match this Saturday – the National Prep Football League (NPFL) Championship game between the No.1 seed in the federation, the Mustangs who will be going up against the Assassins. The game is scheduled to kick-off at 9am as part of the Olympic Sports Festival that will take place on Saturday, also at the Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Team Assassin posing for a team photo alongside their Defensive Coordinator, Timothy Manuma (far left) during a break from practice in Pago Pago this past Wednesday evening. [photo: TG]
As for the number one contenders in the upcoming National Prep Football League Championship Game, Samoa News spoke to Assassins Head Coach Zena Iese who said that not only are they ready to take on the undefeated Mustangs, but they are putting it all on the line. With confidence Iese said, "Our defense needs some adjustments, but our offense, you can't stop our running game – our Assassins running game, is to die for."
Being their first match to be hosted at the Veterans Memorial Stadium, Iese said, "We're getting told that we're going to play in the stadium – so you’re going to see some hard hitting, long bombs, some amazing catches, you guys are going to see some major trucking – literally, think high school football, but they don't drop the ball as much."
He continued, "These guys are better at their craft – more adult like, and it's just so much better to see. I'd say compared to semi-pro, this is way better. Just the fact that these guys are competing without a championship trophy on the line, no money on the line – it's all for bragging rights. We want to be called the best team, and I know the Mustangs want to be called the best team, too."
According to Iese, his Assassins team drafted some of the players from the Decepticons team who came up short in making the final game of the competition.
“Since it's such a small league, both teams are starting to draft from the Decepticons just to play in this championship game – everybody's got an ‘uno’ mentality — a brotherhood.”
Iese's Assassins team, which consists of 29 players and three coaches are confident in themselves, their preparations, and their adjustments leading up to tomorrow’s game – but for who's going to be on the field during game time, Iese said, "Priority … to play depends on who's been coming out at practice and I'm pretty sure that we have about a solid 28 right now. But, like I said, we drafted some players from the Decepticons so you’re looking at 29 at the most for this championship game."
On facing the undefeated Mustangs on Saturday, Iese said, "We've got a couple of new things going – my offensive coordinator Vincent Ta'ala and defensive coordinator Timothy Manuma have been working hard in preparing these guys and getting them back into shape."
He added, "The only reason why I'm Head Coach is because I'm an administrator. I make sure I get the paperwork gets done and I make sure that the coordination of the team overall is intact – these guys already know how to play football, they just needed someone to guide them and really show the seriousness within this effort."
“Overall it's going to be a tough game tomorrow, I know that for sure – one of the things that I know about the Mustangs is they have countless amount of speed on their team. They're always getting the upper hand against us with their speed so we're trying to build up on our speed,” Iese told Samoa News. “Overall the Assassins are about 85 percent there, but you know within this sport, anything can happen... you never know."
Iese says the overall goal and focus for ASNAFF is to give our kids a chance or a gateway back into college. “There are a lot of guys who didn't follow that dream when they came straight out of high school, and they've got talent. We're helping them get back into college.”
“We got Ethan Lake and Ed Imo, they're guys with experience of hooking up these guys with college scholarships that they deserve – we know that we have a lot of interest coming from the people that are off island. They're built guys. They still have their talent but they were starting to lose focus on what lies ahead for them in the future,” he said.
According to Iese, not only are they helping these former ASHSAA Football players get back into shape, they are also utilizing the DYWA Computer Lab to working on their financial aid and trying to get their transcripts back in – “DOE is kind of shocked that we're sending these guys to get their transcripts back in, but we want to make sure that these guys make it there."
Iese said, “Some of these guys want to stay back, they want to play football for the love of the sport – we're cool with that, but our main focus as a prep league, is to prepare these guys for the next level in college and onward.”
Of his players, he said, "I've got married guys on my team and I just want to say thank you to their wives their kids, their parents as well for supporting these guys."
He explained, "We came from nothing and we don't have much, but these guys are putting it all on the line because they've got that one more chance to showcase for American Samoa and trying to make something out of themselves – we got a game in New Zealand next month and we're going to show them where American Football belongs to in Oceania."
Iese concluded, "So shout-outs to all our supporters, all our family members, the staff and volunteers who come out there and help us – other than that, please American Samoa, check these guys out, they didn't give up, so don't give up on them.”