Pointer football fans are eagerly awaiting the start of the 2021 season after last spring's COVID-altered season was abruptly canceled after one game. Since then, there have been some good developments but some question marks remain as the Pointers prepare for their 2021 season opener Aug. 20 against Ramona in a game to be played at Clairemont High,
Let's briefly re-visit the Pointers' recent season:
In November 2020, Joel Allen, who compiled a 100-35-1 record as head coach at The Bishop's School in La Jolla, was named varsity football head coach at PLHS to succeed Mike Hastings who stepped down after 22 seasons. But prep sports were soon halted until a shortened football season was allowed in spring.
After a brief practice period, Allen took an under-manned Pointer team, including a group of seniors and juniors, some with no varsity experience, to Lincoln to play the first of a Western League slate of four games. Down 43-0 at halftime and with players being injured, the second half was played with a running clock as Lincoln won 64-0.
Allen and his staff gathered and made the only sensible decision, pulling the plug on the remaining games against Madison and county powers Cathedral Catholic and St. Augustine.
Fast forward to the present. Does Allen feel he has a varsity team that can compete?
"Yes, 100 percent we do, no question," he said emphatically.
"I'm a competitor. I want to go 10-0," Allen said. "I want to make sure we are getting the most out of the players we have and hopefully a little bit more so there's talent on the field and the coaches are moving in one direction. I want to win, and our job as coaches is to give them the tools. When you win it feels so special, like it's a team collective group."
"There are so many factors that go into a win or loss," Allen continued. "Did we as coaches do our job? Our job as coaches is not to be a factor in a loss. Did we spend our Saturdays and Sundays committing to this football program to give these kids the best opportunity to win? Did the kids do their job?"
The Pointers have finally been switched from the brutal Western League to the Eastern League, a move that took years, with stubborn local officials refusing repeated requests and appeals from Point Loma coaches and administrators.
As the new season opens, league opponents for the Pointers are Scripps Ranch, Mira Mesa, Christian, and Canyon Hills (formerly Serra). The non-league schedule includes Central (El Centro), La Jolla, Valley View (Moreno Valley), Patrick Henry, and Olympian High Schools.
And the Pointers will be playing some – if not all – of their home games at either Clairemont or Mission Bay highs as their stadium undergoes improvements to include visitors' stands and a new concession/restroom building on the stadium's north side. A press box, planned for the current (home) side will be built instead of atop the new stands.
However, on July 30, the first day of permitted practice, Allen only counted 60 players who turned out to fill what has been a varsity, junior varsity, and freshman program for decades. A freshman team this year is unlikely with only 13 ninth-graders on hand.
After an on-again, off-again first year as Pointer head coach, Allen is excited about beginning what everyone hopes will be a traditional season.
"Getting back into the swing of things, seeing the kids, it feels really good," Allen said during a break in practice last week. "I'm really excited about a full year when we can get the kids back in the weight room where bonding takes place and camaraderie that filters over to the field."
Allen is also impressed by what he has seen in his Pointer players.
"They are really tough kids, mentally and physically," Allen noted. "I saw that during our first scrimmage last year. They really play hard, based on the culture Coach Hastings and his staff built here."
Allen plans to run a Wing-T offense based on his current players.
"We'll be more of a Wing-T team this year, very similar to the two-back Fly offense that coach Hastings ran," Allen said. "It seems to fit here and we feel it gives our linemen, who are physical but undersized compared to some other teams, the best advantage to be successful with angle blocks and great technique. They don't have to blow guys off the ball who outweigh them. It allows us to distribute the ball to our best three, four, or five guys and it gives us the best shot to be successful."
As a coach, Allen realizes the importance of giving each player an opportunity to show what he can do.
"We (coaches) walk in with fresh eyes every single day," he said, "because kids are incredible and can grow and change so fast. We don't want to overlook anyone and give every kid a shot."
He's also not concerned about the relatively low number of players who have turned out.
"I'm expecting a few more freshmen to show up," Allen said, "but a turnout of 90 to 100 can affect the quality of practice and attention level. Sometimes the message gets diluted so I see it (lower numbers) as a positive. I can see us having a couple of freshman games this year, but not a full team this season. We don't want kids sitting on the sidelines who need to get a taste of what football is like."
Assisting Allen are veteran Courtney Logan (PLHS alum 2001, 20 years coaching, currently associate head coach plus RB's, OL's); Manny Diaz Jr. (21 years experience, D-coordinator, LB's, O-line. Previously head coach, O, and D-coordinator, also serves as PLHS athletic director); and Ken Lee (12 years coaching, five at PLHS including freshman head coach. O-line, D-line). The junior varsity head coach is Bret Whitman (four years, three at PLHS). He is assisted by newcomer David Jaroszewski (PLHS alum 2008, JV RB's and DB's).
Allen and his players are hoping to play only two of their "home" games at other schools while their stadium is readied. Their August games will be played at Clairemont and Mission Bay highs, which should allow Pointer fans to attend with minor inconvenience but more parking. Hopes are to return to Pete Ross Stadium for a Sept. 23 non-league game against Valley View High of Moreno Valley.
"We plan on being 1-0 after Ramona and then we'll see what happens against Central," Allen said.
PLHS VARSITY FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Date Opponent Location
Aug. 20 Ramona Clairemont High
Aug. 27 Central (El Centro) Mission Bay High
Sept. 3 La Jolla La Jolla
Sept. 10 Patrick Henry Patrick Henry
Sept. 17 Olympian Olympian
Sept. 23 Valley View Home #
Oct. 1 Scripps Ranch Scripps Ranch %
Oct. 8 Canyon Hills Home # %
Oct. 15 Mira Mesa Mira Mesa %
Oct. 29 Christian Home # %
All games kickoff at 7 p.m.
# Subject to change if PLHS stadium not ready
% Eastern League game