COCOA, Fla. - The Cocoa Tigers have plenty of state championship experience. But Friday will be starting kicker, Mao Saito's first time playing on the big stage.
Saito is a foreign exchange student from Japan. This is his first season playing American football.
"I wanted to experience the US culture and football is really popular in the U.S.," Saito told FOX 35.
"He was like coach…he doesn’t want any contact. I said Mao just kick the ball and run off the field. That’s all I care about. He ended up coming out and doing a great job for us," Cocoa head football coach, Ryan Schneider said.
Saito's transition to becoming a kicker was seamless, as he's played soccer for 14 years.
But he still does a lot of learning on his own.
"I don’t have a kicker coach. So I have to learn how to kick, how to, the step by watching Youtube," Saito said.
Saito's had some clutch moments this season.
"Especially since it was 21-21 against Bradford, we had to kick the field goal to go up 24-21, which helped us win the game. I told Mao to relax, just do what you do," senior receiver and holder, Jaden Edgecome said.
While Saito may have some first-time jitters ahead of Friday's big game, he's looking forward to stepping on the field with alongside his teammates.
"I love coaches and I love teammates. So, I’m so happy to be playing with them. This is my first time playing football. So it’s an amazing experience," Saito said.
Cocoa plays Florida State University High School in the 2S state final on Friday in Tallahassee.