The day was supposed to begin with a spirited practice on Bennie Edens Field in preparation for their CIF semifinal football rematch the next day against undefeated Olympian — a team that had defeated the Pointers 38-10 in the regular season’s second game.
Yet the wind had already been taken out of their collective sails a week earlier.
After practice ended, an annual tradition known as the “Turkey Shoot” was to occur, a highly-anticipated water-balloon fight between helmeted coaches and their players.
Instead, warm winds blew across an empty stadium Nov. 22 as players and coaching staff gathered with family and loved ones for an uninterrupted holiday.
“This is my first Thanksgiving in 14 years where we haven’t had a playoff game the next day,” said Pointer head coach Mike Hastings.
A week earlier, the Pointers were eliminated from the playoffs by Lincoln High in a 27-17 battle on Nov. 16 on the winner’s field — a loss that left Pointers players, coaches and fans feeling the Hornets’ sting and leaving team members shaking their heads in frustration.
Much of this frustration had a name: Tyrell Robinson, the 6-foot-4-inch two-way threat for the Hornets, who hauled in all three Lincoln touchdowns and whose diving tackle prevented one Pointer touchdown.
And part of the Pointers’ exasperation was based on the 10-0 lead the Dogs built in the second quarter after a 28-yard field goal by Miguel Alcantar and 14-yard touchdown run by Jamal Agnew. It appeared the Dogs were snarling and ready to avenge a 19-14 loss to Lincoln in the regular season’s third week.
“We were moving the ball so well,” Hastings said.
But with just 1:41 left before halftime, the first real Hornet drive of the night ended with Robinson leaping above a Pointer defender to bring down a 38-yard scoring pass, cutting the Pointer lead to 10-7.
More frustration came on the Dogs’ ensuing drive when Robinson’s shoestring tackle of Agnew, who had caught a pass from Branden Martin out in the open, changed what had all the makings of a quick touchdown by the Dogs into a 46-yard scoreless gain. The drive stalled with 19.8 seconds left and a field-goal attempt by Alcantar sailed wide.
Hopes soared again, though, when the Pointers pounced on a Lincoln fumble with just 1.8 seconds on the clock. But in another moment of frustration, Alcantar’s next field-goal attempt also missed splitting the uprights.
So, instead of sitting at 17-7 or 13-7 at halftime, the Pointers were up by only three at the break.
Perhaps re-energized, the Hornets first drive of the second half gave them their first lead of the game. Robinson again out-jumped a Dog defensive back for a 26-yard score as Lincoln took a 14-10 lead.
But Pointer Zach Eischen stepped in front of a Hornet pass as the third quarter came to an end, returning it 10 yards to put his teammates back in business.
This drive also stalled, but when Alcantar’s punt bounced off a Hornet leg, teammate Raymond Goncalves recovered the live ball at midfield.
After this turnover, the Pointers again caught fire with a key 15-yard pass reception by Jake Wambaugh and key runs by Ja’Markus Watkins leading to Agnew’s Superman-like dive over a goal-line mountain of players, giving the Pointers a 17-14 lead with just 5:25 remaining.
But the Hornets’ Robinson wasn’t finished.
Lincoln moved the ball downfield, and with 1:44 left to play, he clutched his third scoring pass of the night from 12 yards out to send the Hornets to the CIF semifinals.
“I was really proud of our kids,” Hastings said. “That was a pretty good Lincoln team and the game could have swung either way. I’m sorry we won’t have our seniors anymore. That hurts the most, and we all feel heartbroken for them.”
• The Pointers varsity finished the 2012 season with an 8-4 record. After 15 seasons, Hastings’ Pointer record is 109 wins, 68 losses and two ties.
• Hastings said he is optimistic about next season when he adds players from an undefeated (9-0) junior varsity. He is also expecting to have several others move up from a talented freshman (8-1) team. Both were league champions.
• Look for a number of Pointer players to appear on upcoming All-Western League rosters.