Forced to abandon their usual Bennie Edens Field on campus due to field restructure and resurfacing of the running track, the Pointers have taken up residence on the outfield of the pristine new artificial turf surface at Dana Middle School (see related story).
And they'll be there for awhile.
The team will not play a true home game until Oct. 21 when rival Cathedral Catholic arrives for a 3 p.m. Western League game.
Yes, that's the other big change for the Pointers in 2016 as the top five schools in the City Conference were selected for re-leaguing based on recent records. Joining the Pointers and Dons are Madison, Mira Mesa and St. Augustine.
For head coach Mike Hastings and his veteran staff, the new league means greater challenges after bidding farewell to former league foes such as La Jolla and Mission Bay.
Hastings, who is entering his 19th season as Pointer head coach, has compiled a record of 130 wins, 77 losses and two ties including an 8-4 mark last year.
Maybe 2016's early road games aren't so bad after all, since the 2015 team went 4-1 on the road and only 3-3 at home en route to an 8-4 overall record that included a CIF playoff 38-0 blitz of Poway and a last-minute 28-24 loss to county power Oceanside when a game-winning Pointer TD was called back.
As always, prep football rosters turn over quickly, and despite the loss of such college-bound players as Julius Agho, Caleb Johnson, Cameron Callicutt and Kimo Katashima, Hastings feels he has the players to replace them. He sat down after a recent practice to assess the strongest members of the 2016 team:
Quarterback: "Kyle Grady (Jr., 6’2", 160 pounds), is stepping in as our starting quarterback. He worked really hard in the off-season and he's really heads and shoulders above where he was last year and ready to take over."
Running backs: "We lost one to transfer and another moved away, but we're fortunate to have Josh Ball (Jr., 6', 195) coming back healthy. And at our fullback position, Mathew Faa'lele (Jr., 6'2", 245) is just a load and can do a lot of good things.
Receivers: "Patrick Rutledge (Sr., 6'3", 195) is probably our best pass catcher. Gabe Hall (Sr., 6'4", 195) had some injuries the last two years, but he's healthy and looks really good right now."
Offensive line: "Our O-line is really our strength. You look at Davey Folsom (Jr., 6'5", 300) and he can move people real well. Then you have Arthur Daniels (Sr., 6'2", 255), a returning all-league guy and you throw in Tim Sheldon (Sr., 6'3", 275), a very imposing center who is ready to take over."
Defensive line: "Daniels is a two-way starter for us and does a tremendous job at tackle, then we have a transfer from Georgia, Hunter Bell (Jr., 6', 250), who's playing nose guard and he's going to be a good one. Also, Folsom is doing a good job playing both ways. Rutledge is a returning all-league defensive end and two-way starter who also started at tight end. Jake Ducharme (Jr., 6', 190) played half the games last year on varsity and we're expecting him to step forward. It's important these guys stay healthy."
Linebackers: "Brian Yepez (Jr., 5'9", 195) is coming up from the JV and fill a big void from Julius Agho's graduation. Also, Faa'lele's quite a presence in the middle."
Defensive backs: "Returning starter Antonio Pelayo (Sr., 5'11", 165) has really worked hard. As a senior, he's ready to anchor the secondary. Malik Moore (Jr., 6', 165) returns as a starting safety but has an injury now that may put him out for the first couple games. J. L. Skinner (Soph., 6'5", 165) is going to be a tremendous free safety for us and Hall is an important part of this group too."
Special teams: "We have a couple of guys. Oscar Borjon (Sr., 5'6", 130) kicked for us on the JV last year, and then Faa'lele, who can do just about anything, is also a tremendous punter so I think we're going to fill the void by committee at kicker. We'll definitely be finding someone during training camp. That placekicking job is someplace we're looking for someone to step forward."
Intangibles: "We've done our retreat to Big Bear every summer for 15 years, and this year's team really had a strong bond coming out of the mountains. They really came together and figured out what they want from their team this year. I think the teamwork aspect of this group is strong. They just need to keep their mentality high and they'll go far in this new league and new opportunity we have in front of us."
The new league: "We like the opportunity and challenge to play against these schools. Three of them (Cathedral, St. Augustine and Mira Mesa) were in our old Eastern League and the other (Madison) has been in our league the last several years. It's unfortunate we lost some traditional rivalries (Mission Bay and La Jolla are gone) but we look forward to these renewed rivalries which our kids love to play."
Players attracting college interest: Seniors: "Sheldon is starting to get some real strong looks. He is a very good student so has the academic and the football ability to play at the next level. Daniels is a tremendous player being recruited by I-AA schools and the small Div. I schools.”
Juniors: “Players such as Grady, who has a 4.5 GPA, and has been touring Ivy League schools this summer has opportunities there and with larger Div. I schools. Then you look at Faa'lele who will have tremendous opportunities at the large schools. Folsom is already garnering a number of looks from big schools. I believe all of these kids will have tremendous opportunities to play at the college level."
Returning All-League players: Faa'lele, Daniels and Rutledge. Honorable Mention: Folsom.
Hastings takes his 2016 squad to Cathedral for a four-team scrimmage on Aug. 19 that also includes Mission Hills and Eastlake. Varsity action begins at 6 p.m. The season opener is at Oceanside's El Camino High 7 p.m. Aug. 26.
PLHS construction causes schedule changes
A campus improvement project has left Point Loma High School's stadium closed for the summer and caused a significant change to the 2016 Pointers’ football schedule, delaying the team’s first home game until Oct. 21 and leaving only three home games total.
Alexandra Van Heuven, school athletic director, said work is currently under way on both the school track and a change in the location of field events. This requires removing a portion of the artificial turf surface and later patching it once new sites are prepared.
The stadium running track, used heavily by community members, is being resurfaced. The current work is not part of planned stadium lighting, Van Heuven added.
Lost will be the traditional Saturday triple-header that introduces all three teams (freshman, junior varsity and varsity) to the community and is a major fundraising event.
In another major change, the scheduled home game against new rival Ramona is being moved to Clairemont High, saving local fans another drive to the inland North County community where game-time temperatures often hover in the upper 90s and low 100s.
REVISED 2016 POINTER FOOTBALL SCHEDULE:
Aug. 26 vs. El Camino, Away, 7 p.m.
Sept. 2 vs. Ramona***, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 9 vs. Lincoln, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 16 vs. Bonita Vista**, Away, 7 p.m.
Sept. 23 vs. Olympian, Away, 7 p.m.
Sept. 30 Bye week.
Oct. 7 vs. Mira Mesa*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 vs. Madison*, Away, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 vs. Cathedral*, Home, 3 p.m.
Oct. 28 vs. Christian#, Home, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 4 vs. St. Augustine*, Home, 2 p.m.
*** Played at Clairemont High School.
** Played at Southwestern College.
* Western League game.
# Homecoming game.