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PANTHERS OUST OKKODO TO MOVE ON

The Guam High Panthers pulled off a mild upset over the Okkodo Bulldogs to advance to the IIAAG Football semifinals.

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By Jay Leon Guerrero

The 5th-seeded Guam High Panthers were on a mission Friday night to get revenge over the 4th-seeded Okkodo Bulldogs in the IIAAG’s quarterfinal playoff game. The Panthers came into the Okkodo campus with a different game plan and a resurgent offensive line that contributed to the 20-12 upset victory to advance to the semi-finals and a date with the top-seeded Father Duenas Friars who earlier defeated the Tiyan Titans.

All-Island running back Avery Fernandez rushed for 68 first half yards to help move the chains for the Panthers early. The Panther offensive line held their ground and allowed quarterback Jujuan King to rush for two early touchdowns in the first half to go up 14-0 with Nick Anderson going 2-for-2 on extra point attempts.

The Bulldogs came barking back behind a huge kick off return by Jaythaniel Cruz to find them at the Panther 35-yard line. With good positioning, 1st team all-island running back Jesse Karl Cruz helped his team advance into the red zone at the Panther 5-yard line. The Bulldogs went for a pass play but the pass was intercepted by Xavier Richardson in the end zone to put an end to the Bulldog drive.

The Bulldog defense forced the Panthers to punt in their own territory to claim possession with 2 minutes before halftime. The Bulldogs offense again advanced the ball into Panther territory looking to cut their deficit in half. The aggressive play calling backfired once again, this time a pick-6 interception by the Panthers’ Keith ‘Trip’ Chauret. Chauret listened to his sideline coaches who read a pass play and he dropped back to intercept the pass for a 75-yard return to go up 20-0 before halftime after the two-point conversion failed.

“I saw them lining up on the left side so I started dropping back in my coverage. I saw two guys where I was and saw the ball come my way so I took a shot at it,” said Chauret of the play.

Chauret later forced and recovered a fumble to open up the 3rd quarter to give the Panther offense the ball. The Bulldog defense did not allow the Panthers to advance into their territory and stopped the run game.

Wendy's Players of the Game, #7 Avery Fernandez and #1 Jujuan King.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Wendy’s Players of the Game, #7 Avery Fernandez and #1 Jujuan King. (photo by Daniel Paran)

A high snap on a 4th down punt play mid-way through the third period gives the Bulldogs possession at the Panther 12-yard line after Joseph De Leon Guerrero made the key tackle in the backfield for the turnover. This time, the Bulldogs capitalized on good field position. On the ensuing possession, Josh Cruz who rushes in for the first Bulldog touchdown, a 12-yard run, to trim the lead to 20-6 after a failed two-point conversion.

Both defenses were stingy marching into the final period. With 4:15 left in regulation and down two touchdowns, the Bulldogs needed a big play and finally got it from a punt return by Michael Deleon. Deleon dashed 91-yards down the left sideline for the score that gave hope to the Bulldog fans. The Bulldogs elected to go for the two-point conversion but failed to keep the score at 20-12.

With minutes remaining, the Bulldog defense got a key 3-and-out stop to force the Panthers to punt at midfield with 2 minutes remaining. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the high kick by Anderson was bobbled by the Bulldog returner and he fumbled the ball. The Panthers recovered and killed clock to end the game with the victory.

Fernandez had 115 yards on the ground and caught two passes from King for an additional 14 yards. The Panthers look to avenge another loss handed to them from the undefeated Friars. “Going into the playoffs a lot of people doubted us as a 5-seed. But now we are going into every game with more confidence, not cockiness,” said Fernandez. Fernandez said that his team has improved as the season progressed, especially their offensive line.

King agreed with Fernandez and gave credit to the “O-line” for their job well done. “Our line stepped up all week in practice and it showed in the game. They played really well out there,” said King who rushed for 43 yards which included two touchdowns. “FD is going to be really aggressive on defense; we just have get all our blocks down next week”, said King.

“We are a brotherhood; we just got to stick together. We’ve proven it to ourselves and everyone else that we are not to be messed with and we are not going to get run over by everybody,” said Chauret.

Jesse Karl Cruz rushed for 62 yards on 10 carries, he also had two tackles for losses on defense. Deleon had the big TD return for 91 yards, he also rushed for 19 yards on offense. Richardson had 3 receptions for 25 yards for the Panthers.

Games continue Saturday with the Sanchez Sharks at GW and the Southern Dolphins visiting the JFK Islanders. The Panthers will face the FD Friars next week in the semifinals.

PHOTO GALLERY BROUGHT TO YOU BY:

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Michael Deleon jukes a Panther and makes an impressive run all the way to the end zone.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Michael Deleon jukes a Panther and makes an impressive run all the way to the end zone. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Jesse Cruz is handed the ball and braves his way through the center of Panther defense.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Jesse Cruz is handed the ball and braves his way through the center of Panther defense. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Xavier Jones runs out of the cover of his teammates and makes his way to the side.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Xavier Jones runs out of the cover of his teammates and makes his way to the side. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Panthers' Solomon White forces Bulldogs' Jaythaniel Cruz to fumble the ball.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Panthers’ Solomon White forces Bulldogs’ Jaythaniel Cruz to fumble the ball. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Avery Fernandez dodges a Bulldog and gains some yards for the Panthers.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Avery Fernandez dodges a Bulldog and gains some yards for the Panthers. (photo by Daniel Paran)

Guam High quarterback Jujuan King lines up his pass as teammate, DJ Williams, blocks off a Bulldog.  (photo by Daniel Paran)

Guam High quarterback Jujuan King lines up his pass as teammate, DJ Williams, blocks off a Bulldog. (photo by Daniel Paran)

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