Only 24 seniors are listed on the varsity roster and a number of starting positions are manned by 18 juniors and three sophomores — most of whom saw their first varsity action.
The Mariners are no patsies. They are the favorites to repeat as Metro South Bay League champions after compiling an 11-2 record last year, including 4-0 on the road, and coming within one game of a trip to the CIF finals. In doing so last year, Mar Vista gained more than 5,000 yards on the ground, averaging 389 yards per outing.
The Mariners also have the trio of Jimmie Hill (1,602 yards rushing), Keevin Moore (929 yards) and Kenny Nieves (557 yards) returning to the team this season. That’s more than 3,000 yards of experience combined.
And so, when his more-experienced Point Loma defense held the Mariners in check, Pointer head coach Mike Hastings was visibly pleased.
“It was great for our kids to come out and get their first win on the new Bennie Edens Field,” said Hastings. “We felt our defense kept us in the ballgame all afternoon long, stepping up to the challenge when we gave them short fields and getting the ball back until our offense came alive in the second half.”
The Pointer offense included five huge junior linemen, averaging 6 feet 2 inches and 250 pounds, tasting their first varsity competition.
It was Pointer special teams who put the first six points on the scoreboard after the defense forced the Mariners to punt following a stalled first-quarter drive.
Senior Jamal Agnew, whose talents are attracting widening interest, bobbled the football momentarily, then thrilled the packed crowd with a 66-yard return, which included a nice cutback for the final five yards.
“Jamal’s punt return was a very special way to score our first touchdown and we were very excited about that,” Hastings said.
Miguel Alcantar’s first of three point-after-touchdown kicks gave the Pointers a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
The Mariners answered later in the opening frame when quarterback Landon Clark got past the first wave of Pointer defenders and sprinted 51 yards for a game-tying score.
In the third quarter, Agnew, playing at running back, took a handoff, converting it into a 53-yard score to put the Pointers up 14-7.
It was not until senior Johnny Maes, at 5 feet 6 inches and 155 pounds, broke off the left tackle en route to a 37-yard score the Pointers were able to heave a sigh of relief.
The scoreboard clock showed just 2:22 left in the contest.
“Overall, we thought our kids played with a lot of heart,” Hastings said, “and this week in practice we’re going to make some corrections, but it’s always better to make them after a win.”
The Pointers play next at Olympian High School in Chula Vista on Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. The Eagles, under ageless coach Gil Warren, finished 9-4 last season after losing the CIF championship game to Cathedral.
On Sept. 14, the Pointers travel to Lincoln High School for a 6:30 p.m. battle against the Hornets. After a 2-9-1 record last year, the Hive is predicted to finish fourth in the tough Eastern League.
• The season-opening triple-header of varsity, junior varsity and freshmen became a double-header when Mar Vista officials notified their Pointer counterparts they could not field a junior varsity team because of academic eligibility issues.
• The Pointer freshman team opened the day’s action by punishing the Mariners 38-0.
• The most moving moment of the field and weight room dedication ceremony came at its conclusion when District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer was to throw a football a short distance to PLHS football team manager Zack Sweeney, who has cerebral palsy. During several practice tosses, Sweeney was unable to catch any of Faulconer’s passes but when the time came in front of the crowd, the ball bounced off Sweeney’s arms several times before he grabbed it and clutched it tightly to his chest in front of the appreciative spectators.