Reflections on an 'incredible' trip, and lessons learned on game day

Editors note: This is the third and final entry in a series of diary entries from Ashland High football player Mason Constantino, who traveled with his teammates to Japan for Sunday's Pacific Rim Bowl.

As I sit in the Tokyo Airport, I have some time to reflect on the last few days of our trip. Sunday, which was game day, was consumed entirely by the game and all of the preparation involved with it. While it was disappointing to lose, it was encouraging to see us compete with such a great team. We weren't outmatched by their team, we were just out-executed. We missed on a couple of crucial plays that could have made a big change in the game. Our effort was there, though, and the coaches were pleased with that aspect of our game. After competing with the Japanese team, I feel confident that we can compete with any team in the state.

The pregame was incredible. The Japanese cheerleaders assigned to our side were chanting "Grizzly power" under the direction of Ashland parents, and listening to our national anthem gave us the sense that we weren't just representing Ashland, but our entire country.

Yesterday, our last full day in Japan, we were free with our host families. Many of the kids, including myself, and our host brothers spent the day at Universal Studios Japan. It was an exciting way to finish off a great week.

If you have ever been to Universal Studios in L.A., it was basically the same, expect for not being able to understand what everyone around you is saying. After an awesome day at the amusement park, we had a great last meal with our family, along with an exchange of gifts, and went to bed exhausted from an incredible trip.

The trip was not only a great cultural experience, but the football game itself gives us an advantage over our opponents. No other team in the state of Oregon is able to say they played an elite all-star team a month before the season starts. While it is sad to leave our host families, I am also going to be glad to be back in Ashland with my family and friends. It is going to be a weird feeling landing in San Francisco at 11 in the morning on the same day we left, but I guess that's just part of traveling half way across the world.

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