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FRIARS RUSH FOR 436 OVER PANTHERS

The FD Friars ran their way into the win column Saturday night after amassing 436 yards on the ground against the Guam High Panthers with 223 of them coming from freshman running back De’Aundre Cruz.

By Robert BalajadiaFootball Standings

When you run for 436 yards as a team you’re obviously going to have a good game.

The FD Friars (1-1) finally got into the win column by rushing all over the Guam High Panthers (0-2) for a 28-18 win at the newly renovated Panther Stadium after dropping their season opener against the Islanders two weeks ago.

Freshman running back De’Aundre Cruz amassed 223 of those yards on just 13 carries with two touchdowns, including five runs of over 20+ yards. You wouldn’t be able to tell Cruz ran for such yardage given the fact that when he was notified of his feat, a brief smile and comments about improving was all the emotion he would let show.

“I just want to improve,” said Cruz first and for most. “I was happy with myself, but nothing is going to satisfy me, I just had a good game. Whenever I get the ball I just look for an opening so I really thank my line for creating those gaps for me.”

The freshman wasn’t the only standout of the evening as teammate junior Christian Duenas also had a big game getting 86 yards on just six carries collecting the other two scores for the Friars. Duenas too was all business and quickly put the game behind him as the team is clearly focused on much bigger things.

“My line is my support and without them there are no runs,” as Duenas made sure to point out. “We put all our work in at practice and we really showed heart. We’re not going to be cocky, we’re going to stay humble, and we’re going to work at perfecting our craft everyday in practice.”

The unsung heroes will always be the offensive line, but both Cruz and Duenas were quick to give praise to their blockers after each big gain and during the media interviewing process.

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Friars quarterback Jujuan King prepares a handoff to full back Noah Quitugua. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Not Over Yet

FD went into the third quarter with a 28-6 lead appearing to run away with the game (no pun intended), but the Panthers sparked a late quarter rally much like they did in their opener against the Sanchez Sharks.

The Friars continued to run strong until turning the ball over to the Panthers near the 30-yard line off a fumble. Guam High quickly responded through the air as Kaimana Bamba let loose a lob pass to Lewis Harris who, despite seeing double coverage, managed to hit a perfect curl to haul in the pass catching both the defending cornerback and safety off guard while then shifting gears for a 49-yard touchdown.

It was Harris’ second touchdown through the air, tallying the score at 28-12 after a blocked PAT.

Panthers Juan King had been dodging Friar defenders all game long and his rant continued early in the fourth quarter after picking up first downs with three straight runs, including a 30 yarder to get Guam High in the red zone.

Once there, teammate Avery Fernandez punched in a 13-yard score through the right side of the line to get within 28-18 after another blocked PAT.

FD put their starters back in with under five minutes left in the game as Duenas and full back Noah Quitugua gained two big first downs.

Under two minutes left, Cruz got free for a 40-yard run after Panthers’ Harris made the touchdown saving tackle. FD then kneeled out the remaining time to seal a hard evenings work on the ground.

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The Friar offensive successfully picks up all their assignments to allow their team a big run. (photo by Rock Anciano)

Run + Block = Success

Cruz got the games first score from five yards out on the Friars’ opening drive which was highlighted by a 3rd down scramble by quarterback Jujuan King for 13 yards, picking up a first down near midfield to keep the drive alive.

FD then made a great defensive stop as defensive back Bryton Cepeda picked off Bamba early in the second quarter as the Panthers were appearing to go for their first score of the game just three yards away from the end zone.

Bamba was looking for a quick dump off pass to the right side but instead found Cepeda who made the touchdown saving play.

On the following drive, the Friars were cruising down the field after a 42-yard pickup from Cruz. King then completed a 32-yard pass to Cole Merfalen getting them near the red zone. FD attempted to go through the air again as King attempted to hit target Joshuan Lujan on a short pass, but the ball was just out of Lujan’s reach hitting his fingertips on a full extension for the catch, allowing Panthers’ Keith Chauret to pick the ball off for a big return.

After a few running plays, Guam High managed to score right before the half as Bamba gave Lewis a perfect pass on the left side with Lewis only having to turn around and dive for the end zone to complete the 16-yard touchdown catch.

The Friars did most of their damage in the third quarter as Duenas turned a short gain into a 20-yard touchdown on the Friars opening drive of the half thanks to blocking from his right side to go up 14-6 after a Brian Leon Guerrero extra point.

Cruz then added more to his rushing total, and most importantly the score, after hitting the gaps for a 38-yard touchdown run to go up 21-6 with another BLG PAT.

After the Friar defense forced their third three and out of the quarter, Duenas found his way through the blockers again for an 11-yard touchdown run capping off FD’s point total at 28 kudos to Leon Guerrero’s PAT as he went 4/4 for the game.

Leon Guerrero also accounted for 56 of the Friars total running yards while Quitugua posted up 36.

Juan King, brother to Friars quarterback Jujuan, ran for 131 hard earned yards on 13 carries while Fernandez had 36 yards and one touchdown. Lewis finished with three catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, both coming from Bamba who tallied 97 yards through the air.

It was the very first IIAAG football game that was played on the newly renovated turf and as much as the Panthers wanted to celebrate with a win, the grass was very much greener on the Friar side of the football after FD’s memorable performance on the ground.

It’s rivalry week for the Friars next Saturday as they and the GW Geckos will face off at the Gecko field in Mangilao while the Panthers will try and get their first win against the revitalized JFK Islanders at JFK.

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Panthers Juan King gains big yardage on the run play. (photo by Rock Anciano)

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