DEDEDO, Guam — Despite falling to the defending league champions and making what coach Jacob Dowdell termed many “young mistakes” in their season opener, the future is bright for Guam High Panthers football, he said.

Avery Fernandez and Leroy Robinson each ran for 60-yard touchdowns in a losing cause as the Panthers took the first step in their rebuilding effort, falling 30-14 on Saturday to reigning Interscholastic Football League champion Simon Sanchez at Okkodo High School.

“I’m very optimistic,” Dowdell said of the team’s future. “We learned a lot tonight about who we were and what we could be as a team. I’m very excited for our kids.”

The Sharks came out flying and virtually “punched us in the face” early on, and took full advantage of five fumbles and two muffed punts that put the Panthers in a hole in the early going.

But players such as Fernandez, Robinson, linebacker Tristan Hefelfinger and, in particular, new quarterback Kaimana Bamba stepped up as the game went on and helped keep the Panthers in the fight, Dowdell said.

Bamba, a senior replacing three-year starter Lordan Aguon, “did a good job. He had some big shoes to step into,” Dowdell said.

Bamba went 6-for-9 for 135 yards, four of the passes caught by Robinson for 102 yards. Fernandez finished with 93 yards on seven carries and Juan King added 85 on six attempts, including one 53-yard run.

One sequence in particular gratified Dowdell in the game’s late stages. With the Sharks driving inside the Guam High 10-yard line, the Panthers made a big hit on a Simon Sanchez ballcarrier, with Lewis Harris recovering a fumble in the end zone.

“That said a lot to me about the team,” Dowdell said.

The Panthers next play their home opener Friday against Father Duenas Memorial.

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