By Robert Balajadia
Sanchez Sharks running back Daniel Cruz is having one outstanding week off football as he ran for 242 yards and two touchdowns as the Sharks defeated FD 25-18 on the Friars homecoming night at the GW field on Saturday.
Cruz cashed in a three-touchdown performance against the GW Geckos in the early week make-up game, and continued his stellar play against the Friars, who suffer just their second loss all season.
When asked how it was to perform the way he did, Cruz stated, “It felt good because all week I heard some trash talking and it just motivated me to come out strong and want to win the game more. It made me work 10-times harder.”
Cruz gashed the Friar defense for an 80-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that put the Sharks up 19-0.
However, the Friar offense, led by Tyler Okiyama, were on the verge of a monstrous comeback.
Okiyama hit receiver Bryton Cepeda for a 26-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to trim the Sanchez lead to 19-6 after a failed PAT. The Friars then recovered the ball on the kick-off at the 10-yard line which set up another Okiayama passing touchdown, this time to Nicolas Aglubat.
The Friars were still trailing 19-12, but the fans could feel the momentum beginning to shift.
Sanchez managed to march downfield on their following drive and cap off a goal line touchdown run by Wes Shiroma on 4th down, on a drive that was highlighted by a 30-yard pass from quarterback Shawn Dumanal to Derrick Evangelista to go up 25-12.
FD quickly responded on a couple of big runs by work-horse running back Zavier Damian that set up a highlight reel 27-yard touchdown catch by Cepeda over two Shark defenders to pull the Friars within a single touchdown at 25-18 after being down 19-0.
The Friars then forced a fumble on Shiroma on the Sharks following possession, and got the ball at the Sharks 47-yard line. Okiyama had trouble finding an open target just plays later as Cruz intercepted the ball, Okiyama’s second of the game and first two of the season, which gave the Sharks a chance to seal it.
The Friar defense came up big and gave the Friar offense another shot a game tying drive with less than a two minutes left in the game.
Okiyama drove the Friars down to the 20-yard-line by completing five passes for 69 yards. The Friars tried to air it out but the stiff Shark defense knocked the ball away from Cepeda on Okiyama’s final throw to get the win.
“We had to shift into a different defense. They came out with different stuff, so we just had to adjust. It was a challenge, but this was a good game,” said Cruz.
BIG NIGHT FOR CRUZ
The Sharks handed Cruz the ball on their very first play, which he turned into a 60-yard touchdown, but was called back 30 yards due to an illegal block in the back.
Another big touchdown was called back on a 53-yard punt return by Cruz also in the first quarter by another block in the back.
“We still need to work harder and we have to expect every team to come out and want to beat us, but that’s what motivates us,” stated Cruz on the Sharks momentum heading into the playoffs.
Cruz finished with 15 carries for 242 yards and two touchdowns, his best game of the season after coming off his other best game of the season against the Geckos.
The Sharks have only lost one game, which was their forfeit to Guam High in the season opener, and are on a five-game streak. More importantly, their offense has seem to find their groove of late and have two explosive running backs in Dondre Barnes and the emerging Cruz. Barnes was kept out of action in the game while nursing a nagging injury he suffered against the Geckos.
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