Team Stars & Stripes has a roster of student-athletes drawn from both coasts of the United States, from California to New York, and several points in-between.
El Camino head coach Jerry Ralph, who will handle offensive coordinator duties in China, had some very positive things to say about his school’s three traveling players on the roster.
“Jayden Casey is the Team Stars & Stripes quarterback,” said Ralph. “He’ll be a three-year starter under center at El Camino and he has straight A grades and is definitely the type of kid you’re looking for at quarterback, who can read defenses and is disciplined and very focused. He throws the ball really well and is a versatile athlete.
“Jagger Knapp is pretty much a heat-seeking missile on defense and he always plays with a smile on his face. The main reason he wants to come is to work with the Chinese kids in the clinics, which is a great attitude to have.
“Qwynten Kerwin will probably play offensive tackle and will go on to Humboldt State University. He’s a gentle giant and has a kind heart and is very much a leader for his teammates and is really fun to coach because he never takes a play off.”
Two brothers from Rhinebeck, NY, will play together for Team Stars & Stripes, just as they have for their town’s high school varsity team this past season. Nick Mastroeni, 17 is a senior, while brother Michael Mastroeni is 15.
“I think that we’re not only excited to play the game we’ve been playing forever overseas, but it is an opportunity to go and explore a whole new and different view on life,” said Nick. “The way they see the sport that we play and the difference between the two countries will be interesting to discover.”
As for their playing style, both are power backs and will enjoy running the ball in China.
“We like our short runs and to hit someone along the way,” said Nick. “I think it’s going to be an amazing opportunity and a once in a lifetime experience. I’m just happy that I’m going along for the experience.”
Michael too is looking forward to visiting a country they have only seen before in text books, on television and via the Internet.
“I’m excited to discover the culture and to see a different aspect on life and see things through their eyes,” he explained. “What we hear and see will be very different from what we experience at home and that is going to be interesting.”
JJ Flaccavento, 15, is the Mastroenis’ cousin and is in the 9th grade at Trinity-Pawling School in Pawling, NY. He plays on the offensive and defensive lines and lives in Wappingers Falls, NY
“I’m excited to visit China,” he said. “I can’t believe I will get a chance to play football in another country. This is a great opportunity to play a sport I love and to see China, especially all the tourist attractions.
Rory Foley is in the 11th grade at Trinity-Pawling School and plays running back and safety. He is 17 years old and lives in Hopewell Junction, NY/
“I couldn’t pass up, this opportunity and I want to make everyone around me proud,” he said.
Head coach Chris Adamson’s Viewpoint School leads the way with nine players, while each of the team’s coaches has recruited young ambassadors who will help spread the word of the sport they love to play while visiting China.
Viewpoint School’s Noah Cohen, who lines up at tight end on offense and at defensive end and linebacker, will play college football at Puget Sound next year. He is his high school team’s captain and is an all-league player.
Lineman Michael Rhodes and fullback John Watanabe, who lines up at defensive end, linebacker and fullback, are both studying Chinese at school, so hope to have some command of the native language when visiting China. Michael has two older brothers currently playing college football. Viewpoint teammate Matt Villanueva is a dominant offensive and defensive lineman, who is a junior all-league player,
Evan Pearlman is one of three players selected from the Milken School in Los Angeles and will see time at quarterback, as well as at receiver and defensive back, being a very athletic multi-position player.
Defensive coordinator Bill Gallagher brings two players from Episcopal Academy in Philadelphia, Chris Rushton and Kevin Daniel and says of them: “They’re intelligent kids, are gentlemen and at the same time are tough football players. Their team had a good year and finished 7-3 and they are two good defensive players, who played a big part in that success. They’ll be leaders on and off the field, as most of these kids turn out to be when we take these trips overseas.
Bill Gallagher summed up the ideology of the traveling group nicely, adding: “Football has given them the opportunity to over in China, but much more than that, they are representing what people see as teenagers from America so that is a very important responsibility.”