AGANA HEIGHTS, Guam – Joe Carreon threw a touchdown pass to Dylan Naputi with 53 seconds left, capping a late drive that powered George Washington over previously unbeaten Guam High 21-20 in Saturday’s Interscholastic Football League semifinal at Panthers Field.

The victory brought to a heartbreaking end the Panthers’ dream of a second IFL title in three years and kept the defending champion Geckos (6-2) in the hunt for their second straight championship. GW plays Simon Sanchez for the title next Saturday; the Sharks blanked Okkodo 19-0 in the other semifinal.

“We didn’t execute when we had the chance, when we needed to in critical situations,” coach Jacob Dowdell said, citing several penalty calls that went against the Panthers. “It is what it is. You press on. It’s a life lesson, that’s for sure.”

L.J. Aguon led the way for the Panthers, going 8-for-24 for 207 yards and three touchdowns, and ran 11 times for 76 yards. Tegan Brown gained 101 yards on 16 carries and had 10 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. Cody Burpo added nine tackles plus an interception.

The Panthers began the season knowing they would not be a part of the DODDS Pacific Far East playoff structure because their commitment to the IFL prevented them from playing a full regular season against DODDS Pacific teams, and the IFL season ends three weeks before the Far East Division I title game.

Dowdell said that’s something the Panthers should look at for future seasons. “We have to take a hard look, to see if there’s a way we can get into the DOD system, look at all options,” he said.

With no Far East Division I title to play for, Guam High made it its mission to win the IFL title, Dowdell said. The Panthers had beaten the Geckos 19-8 on Sept. 8.

In their lone game against a DODDS entity this season, the Panthers won 28-12 on Sept. 22 at Kubasaki. It was Guam High’s first victory off-island and over a DODDS Pacific Division I team in school history.

That victory gave the Panthers confidence, Dowdell said after that game, that they could compete with any team in the Pacific.

The Panthers then ran the table in the IFL regular season and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs before George Washington’s Saturday victory.

Guam High (7-1 overall, 6-1 IFL regular season and playoffs) will host the Bulldogs at 7 p.m. Friday in the IFL’s third-place game.

“There’s a great deal to be proud of,” Dowdell said of the Panthers’ total body of work. “Life goes on. You go out and go get it again. We still have something to play for on Friday.”

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