DEDEDO, Guam – The genesis of Guam High’s first Interscholastic Football League regular-season title likely came as the Panthers were about to head out for summer vacation last May, coach Billy Henry said.
“If you work out, if you do what you’re supposed to do and believe in the program, we’ll win,” Henry said he told his players.
That came to pass Saturday at Okkodo High School, where D.J. Cruz ran for 152 yards and a touchdown on eight carries as the Panthers shut out John F. Kennedy, 28-0. That capped Guam High’s first perfect regular season (6-0) in the school’s 13 years of playing football.
“It feels fantastic,” Henry said. “This team has truly come together, the kids support one another on the field, in the classroom. Hats off to this team. It’s nice to see all that come to fruition.”
It’s just the first step, Henry acknowledged, for his Panthers, who get a week off before facing the winner of Friday’s Father Duenas Memorial-JFK quarterfinal on Oct. 16.
“With hard work and determination, we have our eyes on the prize,” Henry said.
Guam High netted all its points against the Islanders in the first half on touchdown runs of 15 yards by Tegan Brown, 10 yards by Paul Floyd, 23 yards on a Devon Jacobs reverse and 25 yards by Cruz. Cruz was perfect on all four extra-point kicks. The second half was played with a running clock.
With the bye week at hand, Henry says his Panthers will make some tweaks to change their look for the Oct. 16 semifinal. “We’re really excited for the playoffs,” he said.
George Washington (5-1) finished second, followed by Simon Sanchez, Father Duenas and JFK, which each went 3-3. This was also the first season in which Guam High beat those four teams, which have combined to win every IFL title since 1980.
A season ago, Guam High went 5-1, second in the regular season to GW, and took third in the IFL playoffs by shutting out JFK, 42-0 – the third such finish for the Panthers in school history.
But Seoul American shut out Guam High 15-0 in the semifinals and Yokota beat the Panthers 24-7 for third place in the DODDS Far East playoffs last November.
Because of scheduling conflicts between the IFL and DODDS playoffs the past two years, Guam High opted this year to focus on the IFL playoffs, which wrap up Oct. 23.
A week later, Guam High travels to Okinawa to play either Kadena or Kubasaki in a game without playoff implication, but with plenty of pride involved, Henry said.
“We talked with the kids about it. They’re a competitive bunch,” Henry said. While acknowledging that it’s a “meaningless” contest, “the opportunity to have a challenging game is a benefit to our program.”