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GECKOS BEAT THE UNBEATEN

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By Robert Balajadia

Geckos TE Rashaun Blas was the go-to-guy down the stretch and it paid off for GW as his two big catches led to the game winning touchdown. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Being unbeaten is not the same as being perfect.

What was an unbelievable undefeated season for the Guam High Panthers (6-0) ended in an unbelievable game as the GW Geckos (4-2) took down the Panthers 21-20 at Guam High in Agana Heights during Saturdays semifinal games.

The Panthers, fresh off a first round playoff bye, were sitting on a 20-14 lead with a little over three minutes left and just 20 yards away from putting the Geckos away after a big 35-yard run by Panthers RB Teagan Brown. A couple of run stops later, the Geckos managed to gain the ball with 2 minutes and 31 seconds left to play, still trailing with 80 yards to try and score.

Geckos senior QB Joe “J.C.” Carreon had a tough time passing against the lengthy Panther secondary but came alive in the final two minutes hitting all of his throws. Geckos first time football player senior TE Rashaun Blas snatched Carreon’s first pass over two defenders for a 28-yard gain that got the Gecko crowd on their feet. His next catch nearly made the ground shake as he grabbed a pass from Carreon five yards past the line of scrimmage and slipped by the linebackers to break free toward the sideline, bowling over two Panther defenders until finally dragged out of bounds putting the Geckos in the red zone with 1:41 left in the game.

Geckos QB Joe “J.C.” Carreon flexed his clutch muscles hitting all of his targets, including the game winning touchdown pass to WR Dylan Naputi. (photo by Jesse Castro)

“Once I caught the ball, I just tried to break it as fast I could. I felt some tackles and I just tried to shake them off and then as soon as I broke my last tackle I saw open field and then saw two defenders so tried to beat them to the sideline to stop the clock to get my team down as far as I can,” stated Blas, also a Geckos basketball player.

GW was then facing a third and goal after a couple of runs by senior FB Fraim Leon Guerrero to put them within 11 yards of scoring when Carreon put up a pretty spiral towards the corner of the end zone where only his receiver senior Dylan Naputi could make a play on the ball, hauling in the game tying catch with the entire Gecko fan base jumping off their chairs!

Geckos junior kicker Tevin Santos’ PAT kick had plenty of distance giving GW the lead for the first time in the game.

Naputi was given the chance to redeem himself after a muffed punt that resulted in a near touchdown for the Panthers late in the third quarter to put them up 20-7, but the ball luckily took a bounce towards the back of the end zone resulting in the safety.

“I messed up big time on that safety. My teammates helped me out and got my head back up and told me that I could do this, they never gave up. I knew the defense was looking for [Rashaun] the whole time since he got all those yards and then J.C. found me,” stated Naputi on the game tying touchdown.

Guam High failed to convert on any of their three 2-point conversion tries instead of electing to kick the PAT if, have completed one, would have essentially been the difference in the one point loss.

Panthers QB L.J. Aguon was picked off by Geckos sophomore defensive back Raymond Macias to end the game, and any chance of a comeback, as the GW offense took a knee to run the final three seconds off the clock.

Offensive MVP L.J. Aguon spent a lot of his time out of the pocket, picking up first downs for Guam High with his feet. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Aguon had a quiet game for the Panthers in not scoring any of the teams points. He had a few big runs when the pressure was mounting but could not find a steady rhythm in the passing game.

The Panthers came out strong in the first half scoring on their first offensive drive on a 1-yard rush by Brown. Guam High scored quickly after on their third drive off a 5-yard run by Damian Dimmick to put them up 12-0 while leaving the Gecko crowd a little quiet.

With almost no momentum late in the second, the Geckos lined up for their second punt after two lost fumbles and tricked the Panthers on special teams as the punter Naptui took the snap for an 18-yard gain.

That drive was highlighted by a 40-yard run by Leon Guerrero and capped by him as well, scoring a rushing TD just four yards out for the Geckos first points of the evening.

“It was all the offensive line, all the credit goes to them. All I do is hit the whole and run, that’s all I do. In practice we just keep pushing and we keep improving, everyday we grow and work,” stated an ecstatic Leon Guerrero.

Guam High came out of halftime looking to put away the Geckos scoring on their opening drive on a 3-yard rush by Brown, his second of the night, to put them up 18-7. The muffed punt by Naputi sucked the life out of the Gecko crowd until the defense, led by NG Michael Hocog, bottled up the Panther offense for two straight drives.

The Geckos offense started to find rhythm in the fourth quarter while getting a couple of first downs on running plays until the Panthers got called for an illegal hit penalty that brought the Geckos into the red zone. Carreon took advantage and marched the GW offense all the way to the gaol line where he punched in a 2-yard score to pull them within a single possession, 20-14.

Panthers RB Teagan Brown had a good game on the ground scoring two TD’s including this one late in the third quarter. (photo by Jesse Castro)

GW dodged a bullet after the score on the ensuing kick off as Dimmick broke free on the sideline but was stopped by the last Gecko defender at their own 40 to save a potential touchdown.

The Geckos are in familiar territory making it back to the championship for a third consecutive time, and will face the daunting Sanchez Sharks defense who are fresh off shutting out the Okkodo Bulldogs 20-0. GW managed to put up the most points against the Sharks in the regular season along with defeating them 17-14 in overtime.

Notes

Neither defense managed to get a sack on the opposing QB… The Gecko defense was penalized seven times…The Panther offense was penalized six times… GW completed only three third downs, all of which were touchdowns… This game featured the league offensive MVP, Panthers QB L.J. Aguon, going up against the league defensive MVP in Geckos NG Michael Hocog… This is the second straight game for GW in which they were trailing in the fourth quarter but came out with the win…

 

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Since forming the GNYFF in 2009, the league has never gone without a season until 2020. The league announced their plans to cancel the 2020 season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

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RIP: Former Guam football player Phil Mendiola, shown here with son Tano, passed away in Las Vegas due to a heart attack. Mendiola played for numerous Guam teams from youth to varsity. He was 39.
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Morgan McKenna (left with black face mask) poses for a photo with Guam Football Association Technical Director Sang Hoon Kim (seated, with blue face mask) and Guam Football Association Assistant Technical Director Ross Awa (standing) after signing his letter of commitment to play intercollegiate men’s soccer for Muskingum University in Ohio. The Fighting Muskies compete in NCAA Division III’s Ohio Athletic Conference.

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