FOOTBALL: Anchorpoint’s comeback bid falls short in 46-40 loss

Anchorpoint Christian Schools

Faced with a 30-14 halftime deficit to Christian Life Academy
(Escondito), Anchorpoint, the seventh-ranked team in the state,
twice rallied to within one touchdown of the No. 13 Eagles in the
waning minutes of the fourth quarter but eventually succumbed 46-40
in a season finale that felt much like a playoff game from start to
finish.
The Anchorpoint Christian 8-man football team hasn’t spent much time in the past two seasons playing catch up with its opponents en route to a 18-0-1 record in that span.

However, on Friday, the Warriors had no choice.

Faced with a 30-14 halftime deficit to Christian Life Academy (Escondito), Anchorpoint, the seventh-ranked team in the state, twice rallied to within one touchdown of the No. 13 Eagles in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter but eventually succumbed 46-40 in a season finale that felt much like a playoff game from start to finish.

“For us it was (a playoff game),” said Eagles’ first-year head coach Doug Hix, whose team finishes the season with a 7-2 record. “You know, it’s the No. 1 team in San Diego and the No. 1 team in the Central Section.”

Warriors’ go-to man Kareem Lucas, who sees most of his touches at running back, connected with Ruben Alnas for a 24-yard touchdown with 2:03 to play in the fourth quarter. The 2-point conversion failed leaving the Warriors down 38-34.

“We just moved him around,” Warriors’ head coach KC Adams. “We needed him down the stretch.”

Anchorpoint only converted two of six 2-point tries and also allowed a safety on a botched snap, eight points that proved to be crucial in the final score.

“Those things add up,” Adams said.

The Eagles recovered the ensuing onside kick and proceeded to travel 45 yards in three plays to retake a two-score advantage. Quarterback A.J. Buffini scooted in from 14 yards out to paydirt, 2-point conversion good and with 1:35 left the Eagles led 46-34.

Buffini carried the ball 29 times for 205 yards and four touchdowns.

“I asked him if he was ready for the No. 5 show,” Hix said. “And he said, ‘yes, coach.’ He’s an athlete.”

Lucas took the Warriors on a two-play, 65-yard drive, capping the short journey with a 26-yard jaunt into the end zone. Lucas hit Samuel Apolinar on the first play for 41 yards. The 2-point conversion fell short and so did the onside kick attempt. Two Eagles’ kneel downs and the clock hit triple zeros.

“They came back, showed a lot of character and a lot of fight,” Adams said. “It was beautiful. It was played like (a playoff game). It had that feel and that energy.”

The Eagles’ game plan to keep the Warriors’ high-powered offense off the field materialized from their opening drive. Christian Life took an early 8-0 lead, marching 65 yards in eight plays – and chewing up nearly six minutes – capped by a Jordan Stance 35-yard sprint up the left sideline. The Eagles ran 52 offensive plays to the Warriors’ 34 in the game.

“We wanted those six-minute drives,” Hix said. “We didn’t want to get into a shootout.”

The Warriors struck right back, though.

Jordan Suniga dashed untouched 48 yards up the middle on the Warriors’ first play from scrimmage.

The Eagles increased matters to 16-6 on their next possession with Buffini churning out a 25-yard run with six minutes to play before half.

Lucas returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards for a touchdown and in a blink it was 16-14.

The Eagles added two more scores before half on touchdowns runs from Buffini and Luke Schwantner to stake to their 26-point halftime cushion.

The Warriors finish their season 9-1, including their fourth straight league title. Lucas registered 116 yards on 12 carries while Suniga finished with 69 yards on five handles.

“When you are playing against that type of caliber all of a sudden, it’s a whole different ball game,” Adams said. “I was 100-percent proud of them in the second half. It lets us know that we can compete. I was so glad to see that kind of talent.”

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