Ever since high school football season kicked off four weeks ago, the George Washington High school Geckos have steadily improved – and so have the Southern High School Dolphins.
In Saturday night’s Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam game between the Geckos and Dolphins, GW came from behind to defeat SHS, 35-16.
The Geckos Eian Naputi, with more than 165 all-purpose yards and a rushing touchdown, created opportunities all night long. After rushing for a 30-yard run to the Dolphins 20-yard line, then tacking on another 19 yards, Naputi broke through the defense to light up the scoreboard for the first time.
“Man, it was really rough in the beginning, but then we all picked up our mistakes and started working together,” Naputi said. “I owe everything to the O-line and the coaches.”
Enrique Macias, after drilling the point after touchdown, gave GW the 7-0 lead.
The Dolphins, with strong play from their newest addition and a costly penalty, erased the lead.
Conan Baza, who joined the Dolphins after the Okkodo High School Bulldogs dissolved their team three weeks ago, returned the ensuing kickoff 35 yards to the Geckos 48-yard line. After advancing to the GW 26-yard line, the Gecko defense stepped up and forced a fourth and five. The Dolphins, electing to go for it, drew GW offside and earned a new set of downs. Baza, on three successive plays, ran for his first of two touchdowns.
“It’s a great opportunity to play for Southern because I’m from Okkodo,” Baza said. “Coming onto this team, I’m actually in a place I was born to be.”
After Baza scored the two-point conversion, the Dolphins led 8-7.
Just as the Dolphins offense stepped up, its defense started to find its groove. Bryen Cruz, working through the Geckos offensive line, rushed quarterback Franklin Ninete Jr. and forced a fourth down.
Just as it seemed Southern was firing on all cylinders, costly defensive and special teams mistakes did them in.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Dolphins fumbled deep in their own territory and the Geckos recovered. While the Dolphins defense held and forced a turnover on downs on its own 8-yard line, their luck ran out.
With the Dolphins Ethaniel Escuadra under center, the Geckos Noah Quichocho forced a fumble and the ball rolled into the end zone. Cylar Gumabon, a Gecko defensive lineman, fell on the ball for the touchdown and reclaimed the lead, 13-8.
“It feels really good because we barely get to touch the ball,” Gumabon said. “It feels good to have it in my hands.”
Naputi, driving in the end zone with the two-point conversion to end the half, gave the Geckos a little buffer.
In the third quarter, the Geckos struck again.
After a 26-yard run from Aiden Gumataotao, quarterback Enrique Macias scored a touchdown on an 18-yard keeper.
Macias, converting the PAT, helped put the game out of reach.
GW’s Keanu Gray and Gumataotao each added second-half touchdowns.
Baza, on the first play in the fourth quarter, entertained the fans with a 68-yard touchdown run.
“When I got the ball from my quarterback, I just saw my line open the hole,” Baza said. “It was not only my effort, it was the coaches and everyone.”