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By Michael J.A. Nauta Jr.
In a rematch from last year’s Miller Football League championship game, the defending-champion Pepsi Warriors went to battle Sunday evening against the Cars Plus Rams at the Hal Shiroma football field in Dededo.
The highly anticipated matchup between the two teams didn’t seem to disappoint early on. However, as the game progressed things worsened and when the clock struck zero, it was the defending-champs who picked-up where they left off and defeated the Rams 43-10.
After winning the toss, the Rams deferred until the second half giving the Warriors the opportunity on offense first. However, a very hyped up special teams from Cars Plus wasted no time putting on a show as they forced Pepsi to fumble on the kick-return to change possessions immediately after a Jonathan Pablo recovery.
With starting quarterback J.J. McCloud at the helm, the Rams worked their way into the red zone and eventually set-up a first and goal from the six-yard line. It was from that point where Brandon Burgos plowed his way through the Pepsi defense for the game’s first touchdown. A successful PAT by Dylan Naputi on the ensuing play made it a 7-0 game.
The defending champions looked to equalize the game early on their second series on offense as running back Hosea Ware busted out for a 67-yard run and into Rams territory. However, Cars Plus held ground defensively and managed to force their opponents of the field four downs later. Despite the defensive stance, the Rams couldn’t capitalize on another chance at adding points to their tally.
Sticking with the ground game, the Warriors used back-to-back runs by Ware to earn a fresh set of downs from the Rams 35-yard line. Moment’s later quarterback Danny Manibusan connected with teammate Jacob Torres for the 35-yard touchdown reception. Pepsi’s Chris Santos split the uprights on the PAT to knot the game at seven apiece.
The excitement in the opening half continued as both teams gave everyone in attendance what they came for. Cars Plus retook the lead after a 27-yard field goal by Naputi put his team up 10-7. Pepsi remained poised and focused despite losing the lead. With less than a minute left till halftime, Manibusan located an open Sandy Fejeran for a 16-yard touchdown catch that allowed the Warriors to retake a 14-10 advantage.
With all the exciting action provided by both teams in the first half, most would’ve assumed that things would come down to the wire for a winner to be decided. However, the defending-champions had other intentions. On their first series of the third quarter, Ware punished the Rams defense and scored on a 15-yard run making it a 20-10 game.
Cars Plus seemed ready to respond despite falling behind double-digits. However, midway through the third period things just started to worsen. A bad snap resulted in a safety that gave Pepsi a 22-10 lead. For the remainder of the third quarter, the Warriors continued to expose the Rams defense as touchdowns by Alejo Lujan and another by Ware upped the Pepsi lead to 36-10.
Offensively, the Rams fell out of rhythm and were out of sync as they weren’t able to produce anything in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Warriors added another seven to their tally. As the final whistle was blown, the defending-champions celebrated their season-opening victory.
The Warriors’ Manibusan led the offensive charge passing for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the game, while teammate Ware add two TD’s of his own. For the Rams Burgos and Naputi were credited for all of their team’s ten points.
Miller Football League action resumes Friday night at the Hal Shiroma football field. Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm.
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