Wildcats light up Pointers with strong passing attack
by SCOTT HOPKINS
Published - 08/28/17 - 02:55 PM | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Point Loma plays El Camino under the lights on Friday night. / Photo by Scott Hopkins
Point Loma plays El Camino under the lights on Friday night. / Photo by Scott Hopkins
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Running back Josh Ball (26) eyeballs El Camino defenders as he picks up some of his 140 yards in last Friday's Pointer season-opener. The Wildcats spoiled it, winning 34-12. / PHOTO BY CAMERON MAEWA 
Running back Josh Ball (26) eyeballs El Camino defenders as he picks up some of his 140 yards in last Friday's Pointer season-opener. The Wildcats spoiled it, winning 34-12. / PHOTO BY CAMERON MAEWA 
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The bitter memory of a Point Loma High victory in the opening round of last year's CIF playoffs may have motivated El Camino High's performance before a capacity crowd last Friday night under the Pointers' long-awaited stadium lights.

The Wildcats used flashes of domination, especially in the passing game, to inflict their own dose of bitterness as they raced, literally, to a 34-12 victory over the Pointers.

Last year, the Pointers traveled to Oceanside and came home with a 21-8 defeat by the Wildcats before defeating the same team in a thrilling 42-35 battle that ended the 'Cats' season.

During the offseason, the Wildcats added wide receiver Malachi Russell, a transfer from Orange Glen (Escondido) where he caught 87 passes for 1,742 yards and 24 touchdowns.

And while Russell wasn't cleared to play until the day before the season opener, his presence proved painful for the Pointer secondary as he caught eight passes for 222 yards and three scores.

"They came out hard," said senior Pointer running back Josh Ball, who ran for 1,142 yards last year. "Nothing can prepare you for a first game like practicing hard and I think we need to pick that up. El Camino is always a good team and they came in highly ranked. We might have been a little more focused on the (new) lights than trying to win the game."

A freakish turn of events led to the first Wildcat score after Pointer Mathew Fa'alele broke through punt protection to block a 'Cat punt attempt from deep in their own territory. However, in his race to pick up the wobbling pigskin, he kicked it into the end zone and before he could pounce on it for a touchdown, the ball had crossed the field's end line.

Referees huddled, ruled it a touchback and giving possession to the Wildcats on the 20-yard line, a decision that didn't sit well with the Pointer sideline. Then a play later, slot back Wayne Steward broke past the Pointer line and couldn't be caught as he raced 74 yards for the game's first score.

The rest of the first quarter and early second quarter saw both teams unable to move the ball consistently until the Pointers put together a nice drive that featured two completions by senior quarterback Kyle Grady. But another Grady attempt was picked off by the Wildcats to end the threat.

On the following Pointer possession, the Dogs found themselves pinned deep in their own territory, sending Grady back to punt from his end zone. The resulting punt only traveled 18 yards and the Wildcats took immediate advantage as quarterback Jaden Casey hit Russell on a first-play slant pattern that consumed only six seconds and doubled the 'Cats' lead to 14-0 at the break.

The Pointers narrowed the lead to 14-6 after Grady hit JL Skinner on a beautiful 32-yard pass play that saw Skinner drag a Wildcat defender across the goal line from five yards out with just over six minutes left in the third quarter.

But the Wildcats put the game out of reach by scoring three more touchdowns before the Pointers could answer again.

First it was Zack Brown on an 11-yard run and on the next drive Russell's second scoring catch, this time for 20 yards and a 28-6 lead after three quarters. Casey hit a streaking Russell again for a 74-yard strike in the fourth quarter to end Wildcat scoring.

The Pointers' longest play of the night came with 1:27 left to play when Grady found junior fullback Cameron Auva'a on the right sideline for a 60-yard score.

"There was a lot of excitement with the new lights," Pointer head coach Mike Hastings said, "and I think our kids played hard at the beginning. We blocked a punt and we battled. Offensively, I think we made some gains but then had penalties and first-game mistakes. Our kids are resilient and in the (post-game) locker room there was a strong resolve to improve. We'll clean up our mistakes and get better."

Ball looks to repeat or exceed last year's numbers as he picked up 140 tough yards on 23 carries, (6.1 average) against a physical Wildcat defense.

For the game, Grady completed seven of 19 passes for 159 yards and two scores. He was sacked four times and found himself flushed from the pocket while pursued by defenders several other times when unable to find an open receiver.

In all, the Pointers totaled 331 yards of offense in the loss. Besides Auva'a's scoring catch, Skinner caught two passes for 58 yards, Malik Moore snagged a pair for 24 yards and Ball's two grabs covered 17 yards.

Lineman Davey Folsom flattened and clearly dominated numerous Wildcats on both offense and defense.

The Dogs return to action Sept. 1 when they make the long trip to Ramona to face the Bulldogs in a 7 p.m. kickoff.

EXTRA POINTS:

El Camino head coach Jerry Ralph was suspended from coaching last week by the Oceanside School District with no explanation given to local news media, instead citing "personnel matter" confidentiality.

The Wildcats came into the game ranked eighth in a preseason poll. Pointer league foes Cathedral, Madison and St. Augustine were ranked three, four and five respectively. With Lincoln (ninth), the Pointers play against half of the preseason top 10.

The Pointer JV team (0-1) lost to El Camino 41-21. The freshman team (1-0) won a 20-14 thriller.

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