A strong overall effort to earn a victory in its final regular season game was pockmarked with critical mistakes as the Newport Harbor football team fell to Fountain Valley 34-21 at Huntington Beach High. The loss left the Sailors scraping barnacles at the bottom of the Sunset League standings with no shot at an at-large bid to the CIF playoffs.
Harbor finished the season with a 3-6-1 overall record, 0-5 in league play under first-year head coach Peter Lofthouse. Despite the finish, the program exceeded last year’s win total and showed cohesion and determination throughout the season with a nucleus of underclassmen playing key roles.
Both exciting and excruciating, the Fountain Valley game hinged on several turnovers. The Sailors defense gained the advantage early with first quarter interceptions by senior linebacker Bailey, BrianBrian Bailey and junior safety Morrison, MichaelMichael Morrison to give the Harbor offense scoring opportunities.
Senior quarterback Testa, AndrewAndrew Testa stepped in for his first varsity start in his final high school game and scored the first touchdown of the night – and of his career – on a 4-yard reception off a halfback pass from sophomore Seward, BrandonBrandon Seward. Testa took over the signal calling duties in the final week after sophomore starter Lavin, ColeCole Lavin was lost to a broken left collarbone in the Battle of the Bay.
With the score 7-6 Harbor in the second quarter, Testa led an impressive 67-yard drive, hitting 7 of 9 passes culminating with junior receiver Walker, MasonMason Walker’s 6-yard touchdown grab to extend the Sailors lead. Harbor held a 14-12 advantage at the half after Fountain Valley scored on a second long touchdown pass just before the break; the Sailors defense denied both 2-point conversion tries.
“Offensively we did a good job moving the ball,” Lofthouse assessed before appropriately adding, “we squandered some opportunities in the red zone with a couple turnovers.”
A mishandled snap ruined a goal-to-go opportunity in the first quarter and a more painful end zone interception thwarted a strong drive on the Sailors first possession of the second half. The Barons turned the momentum and took the lead on an 18-yard touchdown run to cap an 80-yard drive. Fountain Valley led 20-14 after the 2-point conversion was good.
The Barons extended the lead to 34-14 with two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter while the Sailors offense stalled behind three more interceptions and a second lost fumble. Testa hit senior receiver Bell, LantzLantz Bell with a 4-yard touchdown late to close out the final score at 34-21.
Junior receiver Goltz, AidanAidan Goltz displayed again why he is the Sailors most dependable offensive threat with several big plays on unofficially 9 receptions for 135 yards. Sophomore runningback McCoy, JustinJustin McCoy turned in a solid game with over 60 yards rushing and recovering an onside kick. Senior kicker Jack Starnes hit all three of his extra point tries for Newport Harbor.
“In the second half we were moving the ball well but just kept turning it over. And then defensively we unfortunately just lost some gas and tired out and started making some really bad missed tackles,” Lofthouse said. “That’s what really caused everything to tailspin in the second half.”
– Matt Morrison