MAROON & GOLD END FOOTBALL TITLE DROUGHT

MAROON & GOLD END FOOTBALL TITLE DROUGHT

📅01 November 2015
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(live audio broadcast: HERE with GSPN’s Robert Balajadia & Guam High Panthers Head Coach Jacob Dowdell on the call. Due to technical difficulties audio picks up late in the 2nd quarter.)

By Jay Leon Guerrero

After leaving the field after being dominated in last year’s IIAAG Football championship game, the FD Friars made it a mission to make it back and bring glory to the maroon and gold. Mission Accomplished.

The Friars finished the 2015-2016 season undefeated and gave coach Bruce Meno his first title as a coach after defeating the defending champion GW Geckos 27-8 on Halloween Night. It was their first title since the 2007-2008 season, and to the boys, it was long overdue.

“It’s a great feeling to get rewarded for all the hard work put in from the boys and the coaches. We learned from last year, we decided to come back the following year and work hard to get back to the championship game,” said Meno. “The seniors are the backbone of this team, each of them played a big role in winning the championship.”

Senior RJ Rokop and Bryton Cepeda accepted the championship trophy from IIAAG President Marty Boudreau as the Friars celebrated on the field with alumni, family and friends.

Rokop and Cepeda anchored the defense to hold the Geckos to a lone touchdown which came with just seconds left in the game.

“We’ve been preparing for this game for a whole year and I’m glad the whole team came out played their hearts out,” said Rokop.

“This is just the beginning, hopefully the team can use their experience and bring home another title next year. I give GW credit because they came out and fought, but our coaches prepared us for a whole year just for this game,” said Cepeda.

First half

The ‘Maroon Wall’ was flawless in the first half. FD defensive coordinator Keone Badua was ready to counter any offensive plays from GW allowing only 10 yards with five tackles-for-losses and a sack in the first half.

Wendy's players of the Game De'Aundre Cruz and Jake Benito controlled the game on the ground, scoring three total touchdowns on the GW Geckos. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Wendy’s players of the Game De’Aundre Cruz and Jake Benito controlled the game on the ground, scoring three total touchdowns on the GW Geckos. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

De’Aundre Cruz had a heavy workload in the first half with 16 carries for 60 yards that led to a pair of touchdowns for the Friars. In their opening drive, the Friars scored from 14-yards out with senior fullback Jake Benito sprinting down the right side on a 4-and-inches play in the red zone. The Geckos clogged the middle expecting a dive but Benito took the hand off and made a wicked right cut as he dodged two tackles for the opening score to go up 7-0.

GW had no answer on offense, searching for the big play from quarterback Brendan Santos, but the pressure from Kobe Tupaz and Rokop didn’t give him enough time to make accurate throws.

Both defenses stood their ground, trading possessions until the Friars started marching into Gecko territory just before halftime. With time ticking down till halftime, FD quarterback Daniel Phillips went for the big play and connected with senior wide receiver Devin Sudo for a 29-yard TD reception to go up 13-0 by the break.

Second half

Benito and Cruz continued to run aggressively to open up the second half with big gains for first downs to move the chains. Benito capped off the drive with a 19-yard score to put the Friars up comfortably, 20-0.

The Gecko offense continued to get bothered by the Friar defense forcing Santos to throw an interception. First team All-Islander Joaquin Mesa picked off Santos to give possession back to the Friars.

The Friars were unable to make use of the turnover as they were pushed back by a penalty and a sack by Jermayne San Nicolas. The Geckos got the ball back early in the fourth quarter but were unable to move the chains. The Friars got good field possession and scored another insurance touchdown by Cruz from six yards out as the Friar nation started to celebrate.

The Friars storm the field after the clock reaches zero, celebrating their 2015 football title. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friars storm the field after the clock reaches zero, celebrating their 2015 football title. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

But the Geckos, showing true champion spirit did not give up. Santos, a senior, ran for a first down and connected with Devin San Agustin for 30 yards which set up an 11-yard TD reception to receiver Jacob Frias. Santos later connected a two point conversion to Luis Hofshneider to end the game at 27-8.

Santos completed 8 passes for 59 yards, he also led the Geckos in rushing with 18 yards. Defensive MVP Damon Hocog had a game high 8 tackles, San Nicolas had 5 tackles and a sack for the Geckos. Both Hocog and San Nicolas are juniors and will anchor the defense next season for head Ryan Rios. Rios has seven titles in his 12 year coaching era at GW, his lowest finish is fourth place.

Cruz rushed for 107 yards with a TD, Benito had 79 yards and 2 touchdowns. Mesa had 5 tackles and an interception for the Friars, Kobe Tupaz had 4 tackles, 2 tackles-for-losses and a batted down pass defense for the maroon and gold.

“It’s an amazing feeling to win this for our school. Our coaches created plays against different teams; they worked really hard to get us to the championship,” said Benito. “I honestly didn’t know what to expect prior to the season starting. As the season progressed, I realized our true potential so it’s great to win a championship.”

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

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The FD Friars all hold up the IIAAG trophy with plenty of pride. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The FD Friars all hold up the IIAAG trophy with plenty of pride. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The FD Friars all hold up the IIAAG trophy with plenty of pride. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The FD Friars all hold up the IIAAG trophy with plenty of pride. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friars and Geckos shake hands after the championship game's conclusion. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friars and Geckos shake hands after the championship game’s conclusion. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friar fanbase in full support #FriarNation. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friar fanbase in full support #FriarNation. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friar secondary denies receiver Noah Blas a chance at a reception. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

The Friar secondary denies receiver Noah Blas a chance at a reception. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Running back De'Aundre Cruz finds space in between the Geckos linebackers. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Running back De’Aundre Cruz finds space in between the Geckos linebackers. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Friars Jake Benito gets tackled by a pair of Geckos, but not before he reaches the end zone for his 2nd touchdown of the game. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Friars Jake Benito gets tackled by a pair of Geckos, but not before he reaches the end zone for his 2nd touchdown of the game. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

De'Aundre Cruz storms the ground as he frees himself for a big run. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

De’Aundre Cruz storms the ground as he frees himself for a big run. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Jake Benito rides the big wall of blockers for a big gain. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Jake Benito rides the big wall of blockers for a big gain. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

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De'Aundre Cruz storms the ground as he frees himself for a big run. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

De’Aundre Cruz storms the ground as he frees himself for a big run. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Geckos Brendan Santos gets his pass swatted by Friars lineman Kobe Tupaz. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

Geckos Brendan Santos gets his pass swatted by Friars lineman Kobe Tupaz. (photo by Richard Camacho IV)

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