Yes, the Pointer football team, long known for its running game dating back to the days of legendary coach Bennie Edens, has been starting to mix in a passing game and the early returns are positive.
Passing was a significant factor last Friday night as the host Pointers played what might be called a "statement game" in defeating one of its toughest rivals, laying a 38-22 smackdown on Western League rival Madison, the county's No.3 ranked team.
"Last year we had a very tough loss to them and we wanted to come out with some fire," said wide receiver JL Skinner, only a junior, who is 6-feet-3-inches tall and used his height to catch five passes for 171 yards (34.2 yards per catch) and three touchdowns. "We had a better mindset this year, we practiced hard and studied film and we were a different team this week."
The big win moved the Pointers to 5-3 on the season, but more importantly 2-1 in a very tough Western League. Madison fell to 6-2 overall with a league mark of 1-2 after a loss to St. Augustine the previous week.
The Warhawks first appeared on the Pointer schedule in 2010, defeating the Dogs 33-7 in what became an annual loss except for a 2011 tie. These are the same Warhawks that won a state division 2-AA championship last year.
The Pointers' stat sheet shows it was a balanced attack that was too much for the Warhawks to defend.
The Pointers ran 69 plays during the game, gaining 227 net yards passing and 197 on the ground for a game total of 439 yards. That's an average of 6.4 yards per play.
Quarterback Kyle Grady has worked hard to improve his game and his efforts have clearly paid off. For the game, he completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 242 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, he added 91 yards running, either on quarterback keeper plays or when he found his receivers covered.
That gives the senior a total of 333 yards in total offense, impressive numbers like those he's put up for the last three games.
All three of Grady's touchdown passes went to Skinner, a tall, sure-handed target who leaped to snatch balls thrown above smaller defenders by Grady. Skinner simply put on a clinic with his hands and after-catch running which he even displayed on a 28-yard interception return where he escaped numerous tacklers.
"Grady has always been a really good quarterback who could throw the ball," Pointer head coach Mike Hastings said, "but our offensive coaches (Paul Lawrence, Courtney Logan and Joe Radovich) have taught them to go out and execute and these kids now believe in what we're teaching. Teams don't know how to defend us with the balance we have now."
Pointer coaches were also impressed with senior Brian Yepez, who stepped in when leading rusher Josh Ball was sidelined with a knee injury. Yepez gained 67 yards on 14 carries, a 4.7 yard average, and scored two touchdowns.
The Pointers' chances didn't look good when the Warhawks scored just 43 seconds into the game on a long run. But the Pointers came right back to tie with their own drive that begun after Michael Blakely's 55-yard kickoff return. Grady passed 43 yards to Skinner for the score.
After forcing a Warhawks punt, the Pointers drove again, with Grady's 17-yard scramble and 13-yard pass to Malik Moore preceding Yepez's first score as the Pointers took a 14-7 lead late in the first quarter they would not relinquish.
A Mathew Fa'alele fumble recovery led to an Andy Medina field goal for a 17-7 Pointer lead after another long pass to Skinner and shorter one to Moore set up this score.
The Warhawks pulled to within 17-14 before Grady and Skinner connected on a 55-yard scoring play for a 24-14 Dog lead.
Perhaps the back-breaker for the Warhawks took place with 29 seconds left in the first half. Lined up for another Medina field goal, the visitors jumped offsides giving the Dogs a first down. They bit quickly when Grady hit Skinner again, this time near the sideline in the end zone. Skinner was quick to get both feet down inbounds for the touchdown and a 31-14 halftime Pointer lead.
Each team added a second half touchdown, with Yepez's seven-yard run providing the hosts' points. When they had possession, the Pointers wisely went to a ground-oriented game to keep the game clock running down. Blakely's pass interception and 40 yard return ended the Warhawks' hopes with just 1:22 left to play.
"(This game) just shows that hard work pays off," Skinner said. "We need to come out every week with the same mindset and keep doing what we're doing. I feel we can take on anyone in San Diego. We're going to play Pointer football and not back down from anyone."
"Our kids really believed we could take it to Madison," said Hastings after the game. "We have the kids that can do it. They came to practice every day with a mission. I couldn't be prouder of the team."
Next up for the Pointers is another opponent they've struggled with over the years: Cathedral Catholic. The Dons are struggling this year (4-4 overall, 1-1 in the league) and lost to Madison 35-14.
"I think our kids have confidence now they can go up against anybody in the county and be successful," Hastings said. "What our kids did tonight proves we need to be right up there with the very best."
The game is at Cathedral Catholic with kickoff set for 7:00 p.m.
This game was the National Football Foundation "Game of the Week," and representatives on hand-selected Skinner as Player of the Game. After the season, Skinner will attend a banquet and be recognized with other weekly winners from around the county.
Former Pointer Jamal Agnew, now a rookie with the Detroit Lions of the NFL, was on hand to see the Pointers' big win. He congratulated the team following the game and encouraged them to work hard the rest of the season. He was able to return home with the Lions on their bye week.
The Pointer JV team moved to 3-5 on the season with a 44-6 win over Mira Mesa.