Locker room talk has helped fuel Guam's run
They led perennial powerhouse George Washington 11-0 at halftime, but Guam High’s football team looked and behaved any way but happy about it as the Panthers trotted to the locker room at intermission on Sept. 4.
“There was some bickering, some backbiting going on,” recalled Panthers coach Billy Henry, who said he then closed the door, locked the players inside and “told them, whatever the problem is, you’re going to sit down and hash this thing out.”
Five minutes before the second half kickoff, he reopened the door and said, “Leave it in the locker room. Let’s go make history!”
With machine-like precision, with the drama shelved, Guam High posted three second-half touchdowns and handed the Geckos their first shutout loss in decades 32-0.
“And they haven’t let up since,” said Henry, whose Panthers (4-0) can clinch at least a share of their first Interscholastic Football League regular-season title by beating Southern on Saturday at Guam High. Kickoff is 3 p.m.
The Panthers have outscored four foes 137-40, the best point margin in school history. If they beat John F. Kennedy on Oct. 2, it would mark the first time Guam High has beaten GW, JFK, Simon Sanchez and Father Duenas Memorial, the only teams to win IFL titles, in the same season.
In past seasons, Henry said, such success might have gone to the Panthers’ heads. Not this group, he says.
“We remind them that this is the first … opportunity to have that island pride” for Guam High, Henry said. “I don’t have a lot of big-headed kids. Last year, we had more talent, but less cohesion. This year, we emphasize team concept.”
He points to the fact that nine different players have scored touchdowns from a group that he calls “humbled, focused and hungry for the opportunity to be in the spotlight and shine.”
Elsewhere, Zama American can become the first DODDS team to punch a Far East playoff ticket. A Trojans win or a Robert D. Edgren loss by 19 points or less and Zama returns to the Division II final it won last year 46-38 at Daegu American. Edgren and Zama kick off Friday at 7 p.m.
“It’s kind of early,” Zama coach Steven Merrell said of the chance to sew up in September a berth in the Nov. 6 Division II title game.
He also emphasizes to his charges that there are other goals to achieve, such as Zama defending its DODDS Japan title and chasing a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools crown. “There’s no letup” in the schedule, he said.
DODDS Korea’s Osan and Daegu American wrap up their interarea series with Kadena and Kubasaki of Okinawa on Saturday. Osan visits Kadena at 10 a.m. and Kubasaki entertains Daegu at 7 p.m.
The Pacific’s oldest rivalry, John F. Kennedy at George Washington, kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday, a game pivotal in IFL playoff seeding; the winner gets a leg up on second place and a first-round game against the league’s bottom feeder.