AGANA HEIGHTS, Guam – They’d very nearly saw their dream of a school-first unbeaten season shattered last month by Father Duenas Memorial. On Saturday, the Guam High Panthers left nothing to chance.

Tegen Brown rushed for two touchdowns, Matt Eaton caught a TD pass and Marquis Dollard returned a fumble for a score as the Panthers broke away in the second half for a 27-8 IFL semifinal triumph.

The win propels Guam High, which has never finished higher than third in the playoffs in its 13 seasons in the league, to its first berth in the IFL’s championship Bamboo Bowl. Kickoff is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday at Panthers Field.

“This has been a long time coming, not just for my players, but for the program,” coach Billy Henry said. “My guys played their hearts out. They have the heart of a panther. They’re tough, resilient and that’s why we’re going to the championship.”

But it didn’t come easily. Much like its 25-19 overtime win over the Friars on Sept. 18, also at Panthers Field, Guam High found itself in a tight battle, leading by just 7-0 at halftime, with the Friars running game attacking the ends every chance they got, Henry said.

“We kept making mistakes, fumbling the ball. And they (Friars) were able to get outside,” Henry said, adding he chose at halftime to spread out the defense, “to give the linebackers an opportunity to hit. We talked to the kids and reminded them of how good they are.”

Guam High responded with three second-half touchdowns, only giving up points to Father Duenas on a fake field-goal play that resulted in a jump-ball touchdown grab.

Guam High won despite the Friars’ blanketing the Panthers’ most dangerous weapon, Devon Jacobs, with double- and triple-coverage the entire game.

Brown finished with 68 yards on eight carries. David John Cruz was 3-for-4 on extra-point kicks and added 36 yards on seven rushes. Matt Eaton caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Paul Floyd.

“I’m elated. I’m kind of in shock. Definitely overwhelmed,” Henry said.

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