To say the PCS Plane hit Guam High football hard would be to call Muhammad Ali a prizefighter.
Five core stars of the two-time Interscholastic Football League finalist Panthers transferred after last season. Three of them, linemen Theartris Eaton and Nijee Smith and receiver Matt Eaton, were due to leave, but quarterback Sean Sweet (Oceanside, Calif.) and lineman Redmond Floyd (New Mexico) were not.
It might seem like a rebuilding job is in order, perhaps a return to the days when the Panthers played piñata for the rest of the IFL.
“That’s the ebb and flow of it,” second-year head coach Jacob Dowdell said. “You tell the kids to go in with their eyes wide open. Things like this happen.”
But in no way does he tell his players to make excuses for people leaving.
“Our expectation every year is to reach the championship game,” said Dowdell, who helped oversee the turnaround in 2007 from also-ran to contender.
The Panthers have reached the IFL’s Bamboo Bowl the last two years, beating George Washington 7-6 in 2010 and losing 14-0 a season ago.
“We are a full-fledged program now,” said Dowdell, now in his sixth year on staff. “The day of finishing in the basement is over. Anybody who plays us knows what they’re going to get up front.”
What the Panthers will bring up front this season is a cupboard that’s hardly bare after the mini-exodus.
Senior veterans Damian Dimmick and Marcus Domingo will hope to pick up where departed stars like Eaton left off. Brandon Saville has stepped up as one of the team’s leaders, Dowdell said, in the middle on both offense and defense.
Tegan Brown returns in the backfield and at linebacker. Assuming the helm of the Panthers’ spread option is L.J. Aguon, a junior who saw significant time under center as a wildcat quarterback a season ago.
Dowdell has also assembled an assistant staff of eight, what he calls the “best we’ve had. We lost good players, but we gained good coaching. That’s a strength, consistency at head coach and eight solid assistants.”
It’s a young Panthers team compared to past years, “but we also have good leaders and that’s a strength for us,” Dowdell said.
Guam High Panthers
Agana Heights, Guam
2011 season record—5-5 overall, .500, 133 points for, 81 points against. 3-4, .429, 95 points for, 53 points against, in Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam’s Interscholastic Football League. Won IFL quarterfinal 20-0 on Oct. 7 vs. Southern. Won IFL semifinal 18-8 on Oct. 15 vs. Simon Sanchez. Lost IFL championship Bamboo Bowl 14-0 on Oct. 22 vs. George Washington. Lost DODDS Pacific Far East Division I play-in game 6-0 Oct. 3 at Kadena.
Head coach—Jacob Dowdell, second season.
Base offense—Spread option.
Key performers—Damian Dimmick, Sr., RB; Marcus Domingo, Sr., WR; Lourdes Aguon, Jr., QB; Brandon Saville, Sr., LB-NG-FB; Tegan Brown, Jr., FB-LB; Cody Burpo, Jr., LB.
Strengths—Solid veteran leadership core, strongest group of assistants the team has had.
Drawbacks—Lack of depth will force that staff to be creative with personnel moves.
Overview—Contending. The days of the Panthers playing piñata for the rest of the IFL are over, Dowdell said, replaced by an expectation of reaching the Bamboo Bowl every season.
Saturday, Aug. 25—at John F. Kennedy, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 1—vs. Simon Sanchez at Okkodo High School, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8—vs. George Washington, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 14—vs. Okkodo, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 22—at Kubasaki, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 29—vs. Father Duenas Memorial, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 6—vs. Southern, 7 p.m.