El Camino Wildcats 17, Point Loma Pointers 16
A defensive battle in Oceanside Friday night left the Point Loma Pointers hopping on a bus pondering the obvious question of how they went from holding a lead and the ball late in the fourth quarter over El Camino and ended up losing.
That same battle left El Camino’s kicker – a rookie to the varsity squad – rushed by his teammates on the field at Herb Meyer Stadium after he nailed a 23-yard game-winning field goal to secure the Wildcats’ first win with no time left on the clock.
“Coach was debating on whether we should kick the field goal, but I told him I wanted it,” junior El Camino kicker Zion Jackson said. “It was my choice. Coach did a good job of coaching me, and I’m just glad to be here.”
And so it was. From the right hash on the 13-yard line, Jackson brought together four quarters of see-saw scoring and a win for the Wildcats, answering the question of which of these two teams that had lost so many core offensive players to graduation last year would win this annual match-up.
Scoring began slowly in the game on a 24-yard Point Loma field goal from junior kicker Andy Medina.
El Camino took its first lead in the second quarter on an 80-yard dash from running back Ranse Garner into the endzone. But the Wildcats would lose it after a pickoff of quarterback Brock Manber by Point Loma’s Zac Makis set up a 20-yard touchdown pass from junior Point Loma quarterback Trey Cobb to JL Skinner.
With the score 10-7 in Point Loma’s favor, Manber found his intended target in the fourth quarter, connecting on a 26-yard pass to Alex Fetko for a score and a 14-10 El Camino lead.
Point Loma responded in kind when Cobb connected with junior Kaden Gill for 37 yards and a score of its own. A key block of the point after by El Camino’s Elijah Valles left the Wildcats in position to win on a field goal if the opportunity came in the final minutes.
It did. It came in the final seconds, in fact. In 3.6 seconds, a 16-14 Point Loma lead was erased, a junior kicker was made famous in the eyes of his teammates, and a 17-16 walk-off victory was what El Camino had to show for it. That, and a pretty cool memory.
The last time the Point Loma Pointers and El Camino Wildcats weren’t scheduled to play each other was 2013, and even then, these two teams from opposite ends of San Diego County found themselves squaring off in postseason play. Seemingly, a football season just wouldn’t be recognizable without this match-up, and as it has for the past several years, the annual trading of tackles between the Pointers and Wildcats comes in Week 1.
Hosted this season by the boys in brown from Oceanside, the game will feature two teams whose squads were seeded in the top half of the San Diego Section Division I playoffs in 2017 – El Camino at No. 1, which went on to play Crenshaw in the CIF Division 4-AA bowl game, and Point Loma at No. 4, which earned a bye into the San Diego Section Division I quarterfinals against the Oceanside Pirates. Both teams find themselves ranked somewhat lower in state rankings from last season, but still with modest MaxPreps rankings of No. 211 for Point Loma and No. 167 for El Camino. The two are roughly on par with each other locally, ranking No. 25 and No. 23, respectively, in the San Diego Section.
“Last year, El Camino beat us in a physical game,” Point Loma Head Coach Mike Hastings said of his team’s season-opening 34-12 loss to the Wildcats a season ago. “But I don’t think I can put a lot of stock into that.”
Despite losing a large share of his starting offense to attrition, Hastings believes his seven returning starters on defense will help keep the Pointers competitive in this one. At least, that’s what he’s banking on.
“We have a lot more ‘knowns’ on defense versus unknowns,” he added.
Look for middle linebacker Christian Terzoli, safety JL Skinner, outside linebacker Cameron Auva’a and defensive tackle Jake Silva – all seniors – to keep El Camino’s offense in check, Hastings said. On the other side of the ball, Hastings expects senior receiver Wes Windmiller to have a solid year, but he didn’t reveal which of the two quarterbacks vying for the starting role behind center might be tossing to him at the start the season – senior Trey Cobb or junior Jason Perez. In the backfield, sophomore running back Christian Hall will be worth a look, Hastings added.
With more apparent questions than answers on offense, the Pointers will have to turn out a solid pass rush against El Camino’s front line to keep from becoming too dependent on a less-experienced offense.
The question is how challenging that will be. El Camino also lost many offensive starters to graduation, including quarterback Jaden Casey, whose 1-yard dash in the final seconds of last season’s San Diego Section Division I semifinal clinched a victory for El Camino over cross-town rival Oceanside and paved the way toward the team’s Division I championship and an eventual bowl game against Crenshaw. After seeing limited action in 2017, senior Brock Manber will take over as the Wildcats’ offensive leader behind center.
On defense, linebacker Jacob Sega, who led the team with 123 tackles last season, will return, but will have to play both sides of the ball as he’s needed to fill in more at running back as well. This Week 1 match-up starts at 7 p.m. Friday at El Camino High School’s Herb Meyer Stadium. Catch highlights for this and all the week’s games around the county on the KUSI Prep Pigskin Report, starting at 11 p.m. this Friday.