Panthers Are Football’s Finest

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Guam – The Guam High Panthers football team claimed their first football title and produced the school’s first championship team.

The Panthers defeated the defending George Washington Geckos 7-6 with an interception in the end zone in the last moments of the game. The Geckos played like defending champs and the Panthers played like they wanted to be champs which proved to be the recipe for a great football game.

This was definitely not the same GW football team the Panthers defeated earlier in the season 32-0. If the Panthers improved throughout the season, the Geckos improved even more. The Geckos defense was key in the first half with a goal line stop to keep the score 0-0 at the half. Despite the Panthers putting up big numbers on offense the Geckos defense only held them to one touchdown. Wide receiver Matthew Eaton racked up 101 yards, running back David Cruz rushed for 122 yards and Paul Floyd threw for a 162 yards.

The Geckos play calling proved to be the right ones but execution killed the Geckos. One play that was executed perfectly was when the Geckos put the first points on the board. Derek Santos connected with Dylan Naputi who came across behind the linebackers and hit him in the middle. The Geckos went for a two point conversion on a outside screen that shifted the line to the sideline. But even that many blockers failed to stop the defense from penetrating. “We always go for the two points, we always do,” said GW Head Coach Ryan Rios.

The Panthers went to Eaton who towered over the GW cornerbacks. All Floyd had to do was throw it up and let Eaton out jump the defenders, and that’s what he did. Despite having up to a three man coverage, more often than not the tall receiver would come down with the ball. After a few of those, Floyd found Devon Jacobs in the end zone on a pass that found him falling out of bounds but ruled a touchdown. And that would have definitely warranted a red flag if GW had the option. A kick later the Panthers were leading by one.

The Geckos got the ball back at around mid-field with about 1:20 left in the game. Surely and decisively the Geckos marched the ball down the field and without any timeouts. The offense relied on screen passes to the sidelines and the players knew to get as much yardage as they could and run out of bounds to stop the clock. Before they knew it, the Geckos were within five yards with less than thirty seconds left. Santos aired the balled to an open man but it tipped off his fingers and landed in Panther possession. Floyd later knelt down and the Panthers erupted in delight.

To reiterate what the players tell each other afterwards, good game.

This is the second season in a row that a team finished with a title undefeated.  Last year it was the Geckos.

fperez@spbguam.com