The Kaiser Cougars are 2-2-1 this season.
One of their captains, Noah Matsumoto, is playing in just his second full season of football. He also helped recruit many of his teammates, several of whom hadn’t played the sport before this season.
“Having a full season is all we could ask for. The community is enjoying it a lot. You come to our games and the stands are filled,” said Matsumoto.
Last fall, there were many not so average days. On and off the field drama led to a canceled football season and a head coach resignation.
“I think the biggest thing they learned was to remain as a team while struggling through adversity. Last year was a tough lesson to learn, but that’s one of the great things about athletics is that it teaches us life lessons,” said Tim Seaman, Kaiser’s new head coach.
“We’re just really grateful to have a season, but we’re not just going to take that for granted. We’re going to compete, and we’re just going to try our best to take that as far as we can,” said Matsumoto.
Matsumoto speaks for his school. The senior captain is Kaiser’s student body president.
“With all the support from all my friends and family and just the school in general, it’s just been great so far,” said Matsumoto. “I try to have as much free time as possible, but there’s always meetings that are going on. I have Kaiser Student Council meetings, National Honor Society meetings, Kaiser Sports News meetings. It’s hard to really keep track of your schedule.”
The Cougars leader had to deal with another non-average day just a week before homecoming.
“A beloved friend of ours that many of us knew in the community died in a car accident down the road from Kaiser,” Matsumoto said.
Senior Jake Braz was pronounced dead at the scene after leaving school on a Friday afternoon.
“Everyone took it pretty hard. Jake was really well known in the community. We all grew up with him playing sports. I played baseball with him for Kaiser. It’s just really shocking to see someone so young die so quick. Just thinking about what everyone else is going through that were close to him, it’s heartbreaking to see people like that,” Matsumoto said.
Matsumoto and the school had to adjust the homecoming schedule. They held a moment of silence for their classmate at the homecoming assembly.
“It was definitely something that the community needed, and also our school, and we came out with the win, so that’s all I can ask for,” Matsumoto said. “There’s always a way to find the light in every dark situation, and I think that’s kind of what we did.”
Lately, a normal school day or football practice is a little bit different for Kaiser students. The football team is wearing JB stickers on its helmets all year.
“We dedicate the games to Jake. At the beginning and the end, we just give a yell to him: JB on three,” Matsumoto said.
Kaiser has endured a lot, strengthened by its student leader.