Continuing one of the premier rivalries in all of high school sports on Guam, the George Washington High School Geckos and Father Duenas Memorial School Friars will face off Friday at GW.
The football rivals, both from Mangilao, will face off in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam season opener.
The GW Geckos and FD Friars have battled each other in the last five championship games. And while FD has won the last four contests en route to a sterling 40-game win streak, last season’s electrifying double-overtime final is proof that anything can happen when these two powerhouses meet.
Geckos have lost several key players
The Geckos have been to the big dance for 10 straight seasons and almost ended FD’s win streak in last year’s opener, another thriller that saw GW leading 19-14 going into the fourth quarter. The Friars managed to escape with a 26-19 victory, thanks in part to a 53-yard run by All-Island running back Kein Artero.
“It’s a good rivalry, every game is a battle,” said Ryan Rios, GW head coach.
The 2019 Geckos are a younger bunch, with many new faces graduating from the Guam National Youth Football Federation ranks. The Geckos lost several key players, including Shelby Meeks and Jesse Manglona, who were a large chunk of the GW running game. Also gone are wide receivers Aaron Jamanila and Dominador Jamanila III, his cousin.
A tough defense that aims to stay strong
Rios will likely have to lean on his veterans, none more so than starting quarterback Enrique Macias.
“It helps because he’s been there for three years. … With a lot of guys graduated, no returning running backs … his experience is key,” Rios said. “But we have some young guys from the youth league that are ready.”
The coach expects newcomers Kai Blas and Ian Naputi to fill the void in the backfield.
GW’s strength has always been its defense and with head captain Noah Quichocho and co-captain Aaron Toves anchoring a core of returnees, that shouldn't change. The biggest challenge on defense may be filling the shoes of defensive captain Jon Espino, who was a major part of the Geckos’ 2018 success.
“Coming from GW, we always want to get to the top and win the championship,” Quichocho said. “We put the work in and play hard. That’s all we can do.”
Younger players are key to success
Quichocho will take over the middle linebacker role left vacant by Espino. He understands that continued success relies on getting the younger players ready for the speed and physicality of high school football.
“It starts up front, on offense; and defense and everyone has to play their part in order for us to work together and win,” Quichocho said.
“There are people that are going to be bigger and hit harder,” said Toves, adding that they “need to get the younger guys ready for that battle in the trenches. That’s where the ball is snapped: in the trenches.”
And with FD returning many of its key players – including running back Artero, Caiyle Gogue, and quarterback Nick Anderson – the GW defense will have to be on its game.
Rios said every season is a work in progress.
“It is unfortunate we play FD the first game, but it doesn’t matter. We strive to get better every game, and it’s about getting to the pinnacle at the end.”