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HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL FINALLY KICKS OF FRIDAY NIGHT

Will the FD Friars freight train keep rolling?

By Jay Leon Guerrero

Get ready football fans, the 2023 ISA High School Football League will be starting this weekend. The controversial league will finally have its first kickoff late in the first quarter after several meetings and field preparations.  After a fourth quarter experiment last season, league officials and coaches voted to go back to the first quarter.

Last season, there were some forfeits and a championship game that was not played due to the devastation from Typhoon Mawar. As a result, the regular season’s top seed, the Father Duenas Friars, were declared champions by the league.

Going into this season, the Friars are riding seven consecutive championships and a 65-game winning streak. Could this be the year the Friars get dethroned?

Last season, the team threatening FD’s streak, the Guam High Panthers, will give the fans what they want to see: FD vs. Guam High. The Panthers forfeited last season’s regular season matchup, and both teams were scheduled to play in the championship on May 27th, but Mother Nature had other plans. Mark your calendars for October 27th. The two rivals will finally meet (or at least we hope so).

The Friars and Panthers are projected to have a good season based on last year’s standings, but do not sleep on the rest of the league. Four other teams look to join the conversation with new recruits and talents from the Guam National Youth Football Federation (GNYFF).

Two teams out
The Tiyan Titans and Sanchez Sharks will not be participating this season, and a handful of talent from those schools will join other teams as affiliates, making the league much more competitive this year.

Let’s look at the six teams ready for this season based on last seasons rankings:

1. FD Friars

Head coach: Bruce Meno

Last season’s record: 7-0

Projected roster size: 68

Key returnees: Alex Sojo (QB), Trey Blas (WR), Tristan Burgos (DE), Vance Meno (LB)

Notable newcomers: Javian Meno, Mackey Sablan, Mason Whitaker

The defending champions will be led by head coach Bruce Meno, who instills hard work and discipline to his sqaud. According to FD defensive coordinator Keone Badua, some strong leaders were lost due to graduation, but the Friars are ready for their season opener vs. the JFK Islanders. “It will be hard to overcome the loss of seniors Caleb Murphy and Alucious Medler. Their leadership will be tough to replace,” said Badua.

2. Guam High Panthers

Head coach: Kevin Manns

Last season’s record: 6-1

Projected roster size: 36

Key returnees: Aaron Johnson (QB/WR), Cameron Brantley (RB), Justin Brantley (LB)

Notable newcomers: Chris Angoco and Ysidro Flores

The Panthers are not deep in roster size, but they do have the talent to make big plays. ISA All-Island sprint champion Aaron Johnson is back for his final season along with fellow seniors Cameron and Justin Brantley. The senior trio will lead the team with experience. New head coach Kevin Manns will call the plays for the Panthers. According to coach Manns, the team will thrive with speed and natural talent on both offense and defense. The Panthers will open their season on Saturday vs. the Southern Dolphins.

3. GW Geckos

Head coach: Ryan Rios

Last season’s record: 5-2

Projected roster size: 45

Key returnees: Raidon Cruz (NG), Ricardo Leon Guerrero (WR), Rayn Rios (RB/LB)

Notable newcomers: Justin Sablan (RB from Sanchez) and Kaden Apiag

This season, the Geckos look to return back to the championship game, a game that has eluded them for two years. Coach Rios said the team is capable of getting back to the top, but it will take some hard work: “to have a successful season, we need to have commitment and dedication from the players”. The Geckos open their season vs. the Okkodo Bulldogs this Friday at GW.

4. JFK Islanders

Head coach: Allen Blend

Last season’s record: 4-3

Projected roster size: 35

Key returnees: Jermaine Molo (FB/LB), Mason and Malcolm Lim (UT), Isaiah Sablan (UT)

Notable newcomers: Kevin Beckwith, Rileey Munoz, Vandahlei Reyes

The Islanders will need to fill the shoes of last season’s seniors Joshua Benavente, Noah Medler, and Pierce Pangelinan. According to coach Blend, the keys to success this season are youth, discipline, speed and athleticism. The Islanders will have an early test this season with a matchup against the Friars on Friday.

5. Southern High Dolphins

Head coach: Dwayne Duenas

Last season’s record: 1-7

Projected roster size: 45

Key returnees: Izayus Rosalin (OL/DL), Collin Santos (OL/DL) , Jaden Escuadra (DB)

Notable newcomers: Ryan Kole Luzanta, Aiden Dydasco, Nolan Flores

Talent is on the rise for the Dolphins, and the team is looking to improve from last season’s down year. The Dolphins are not looking to rebuild, but reload. New head coach Dwayne Duenas said his team is focused heading into this weekend’s opener: “We have disciplined and coachable kids who are putting in noticeable effort to continuously improve,” said Duenas. The Dolphins will be tested early in the season versus Guam High on Saturday.

6. Okkodo Bulldogs

Head coach: Angel Calugay

Last season’s record: 0-7

Projected roster size: 32-35 players

Key returnees: Bryant Ignacio (QB/DB), Jaron Mansapit (OL/DL), and Kayler Ignacio (RB/WR)

Notable newcomers: Dylan Cruz, Jerome Cruz, Keowanie Borreta

The Bulldogs are another young team looking to notch some wins this season.  The squad has some notable returnees and several new players from the GNYFF. The youthfulness of the Bulldogs will look to surprise the league. Under the leadership of coach Calugay, the Bulldogs look to improve from last season. Okkodo will face the Geckos on Friday. 

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COMING SOON …

QUICK HITS

The PVA Fairies went unbeaten and took the U14 4×4 Beach Volleyball Tournament. The Fairies beat the SIFA Manta Rays 21-10 in the championship match.
L-R: Summer Pinaula, Alina Torres, Ava Quinata, Bella Pangelinan, Lexi Delfin
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Mia-Lahnee & Rckaela Aquino qualify to represent Team Guam in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. This is Team Guam’s first siblings to qualify on merit and Rckaela’s second Olympic Games, according to the Guam National Olympic Committee.

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