There have been decades of local sports scribes attempting to capture the moment with the best of this and the best of that, based on opinions, and Newport Harbor High School Hall of Famer Don Cantrell paved the way in writing about Harbor sports and its history in the 1950s.
Roger Carlson, after whom the press box at Davidson Field is named, was among the latest former Daily Pilot sportswriters to pen a Top 10 All-Time Newport Harbor football games list in 2013. And tonight we salute Roger for his 35 years of service and commitment to covering high school sports in the community!
Tonight we also unveil the results of a successful online campaign at www.tarfootball.com, in which you the fans voted for the top Newport Harbor games. Will this year’s team play a game worthy of making the list? Stay tuned.
- 1-1992 – Newport Harbor 28, Corona del Mar 21
It wasn’t a CIF championship game, but it will forever be known as Battle of the Bay II and the only time the rivals squared off a second time in a season. With the week-long build-up to the unscheduled, unmatched CIF Division V semifinal, i.e. Battle of the Bay II, and the energy in the stadium at Davidson Field, it was must-see theater as the community almost shut down for a night to witness the Greatest Show on Earth. What made the victory so sweet for the Sailors was the fact that they avenged an earlier 17-0 loss to their bitter rival in the regular season. But even more significant was that the win launched the Tars into a CIF championship game for the first time in 50 years. The Sailors rallied to win it when Wade Tift scored on a 25-yard touchdown run with 1:30 left on the clock. In a wild fourth quarter, CdM’s Chris Taylor scored on a 75-yard fumble recovery return for a touchdown to give the Sea Kings a 21-13 lead. But Tift returned the ensuing kickoff to the Tars’ 45, setting up game-tying touchdown pass from quarterback Gregg Williams to Chad La Bass from 25 yards. The Williams-La Bass duo worked again on a 2-point conversion pass to tie it, 21-21. Seconds later, Newport’s Chris Edwards recovered a CdM fumble, forced by Jeff Sanita, to set up Tift’s winning touchdown jaunt on a draw play. It is one of the most compelling sporting events in Newport-Mesa Unified School District history.
- 2-1994 – Newport Harbor 20, Servite 15
To clinch their first CIF championship, the Sailors rallied in the fourth quarter to defeat the Friars before a capacity crowd of 8,200 at Orange Coast College and live television audience on the former Orange County Newschannel cable network. In a section title contest to crown Newport Harbor’s only unbeaten and untied gridiron campaign in nine decades, Coach Brinkley’s squad celebrated after defensive end Jack Hogan recovered a Servite fumble with 1:35 left in the game, and the Tars ran out the clock with quarterback John Giordani at the controls. In what became known as “The Catch,” Giordani throw a strike down the left side and tight end Mike Freeman hauled in the pass at the 12-yard line, and bulldozed his way into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. Servite still had 2:37 on the clock, but defensive end Tom Eaton stripped a Friar ball carrier and Hogan pounced on the fumble. For the first time since Davidson opened the doors to the school as a volunteer principal, Tar Ball captured a CIF football championship.
- 3-1994 – Newport Harbor 13, Foothill 10 (OT)
Since the overtime victory led to Newport Harbor’s first CIF title, this epic CIF Division V semifinal ranks among the greatest events in Tar Ball lore, as fans lined the end zones and outskirts of Tustin High in maybe the No. 1 nail-biter of all time. To start the tie-breaker, Foothill elected to go on offense first and was held to a field goal, after a huge sack by Newport Harbor nose guard Bill Johns, the Sea View League and CIF Division V Defensive Player of the Year. The Tars punched in the winning touchdown when tailback Brian Johnson, seemingly stopped, pushed through blockers to reach the end zone on fourth down. It was one of the most memorable play calls in Brinkley’s 32-year career, because he let the kids decide whether to kick a field goal and try to tie the game, or go for the win with a touchdown. In a tension-filled game, and after being outgained by the Knights in total offense, 370-124, the Tars posted another miracle win as Johnson carried to paydirt from about 48 inches away behind tackle James “Big Country” Moureaux. The Sailors also rallied late in a 27-24 upset win over Santa Margarita that season to help secure a league championship.
- 4-1999 – Newport Harbor 19, Irvine 18
Against their longtime nemesis, the Sailors came back from an 18-6 deficit in the CIF Division VI championship game to capture their second Southern Section title. It might have been the Tars’ second unbeaten and untied season, but they finished 13-0-1 because of Brinkley’s show of respect for the opposing coaches and willingness to pull his horses late in a Week 2 nonleague game against Marina, in which they settled for a 21-21 tie. In the CIF title game at Orange Coast College, Newport Harbor senior tailback Andre Stewart, who was killed a year later in a car accident, rallied the Sailors in the fourth quarter with a 42-yard run and a 19-yard touchdown jaunt on the next play. Later, Newport’s Andy Kalanza scooped up an Irvine fumble, caused by Garrett Troncale, and reached the end zone from four yards out for the go-ahead touchdown. Newport was 2-6 against Irvine prior to 1999, when the Tars beat the Vaqueros twice.
- 5-2005 – Newport Harbor 28, Valencia 21
To win their third CIF championship and their only title in the 21st century, the Sailors used the arm and legs of quarterback Tom Jackson to score four touchdowns in the Division VI title game at OCC, the peak of the Brinkley era. Jackson threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to spearhead Newport, which took the lead in the fourth quarter on Jackson’s two-yard scoring toss to Delano McKenzie. Nick Novotny and Jarrett Daniel scored on Jackson throws from 10 and 22 yards, respectively, for the Tars, while James Coder produced a victory-sealing interception to close out the Tigers. Newport Harbor finished with an 11-3 record and made a trip to the CIF playoffs for an unprecedented 15th time in 17 years under Brinkley.
- 6-2004 – Newport Harbor 24, Mayfair 17
In an unforgettable finish, Newport Harbor quarterback Kasey Peters threw a “Hail Mary” pass in the final seconds and Alex Orth grabbed the football for the winning touchdown as the Tars shocked the Monsoons in a CIF Division VI semifinal at Cerritos College. While the Tars lost to Huntington Beach the following week in the CIF final at Angel Stadium, it was a miracle comeback for Newport Harbor in its semifinal road win, as Travis Duffield booted a 28-yard field goal with 25.5 seconds left and Taylor Young recovered a Mayfair fumble on the first play of the ensuing series to set up the winning “Hail Mary” from 30 yards out as Orth came up with the ball in a crowd of defenders in the end zone with 4.2 seconds remaining. One of the defenders was future Tennessee Titans standout Alterraun Verner. Peters passed for 321 yards and two touchdowns, and scored on a one-yard run. Throughout the season, most of Peters’ passes were aimed for senior Spencer Link, who ended with a school-record 143 career receptions.
- 7-1978 – Newport Harbor 10, St. Paul 7
At a time when the Sailors played in CIF Division 1, they stunned the top-seeded and previously unbeaten Swordsmen in the first round of the playoffs, propelling the Tars to their second consecutive appearance in the semifinals. While Newport Harbor (7-5 overall) finished third in the Sunset League, Coach Bill Pizzica’s Sailors found another gear in the playoffs, after four losses in the regular season and barely making it into the CIF playoffs as the 16th and final selection. After deposing of No. 1 St. Paul in probably the biggest upset victory in Tar Ball chronicles, the Sailors smashed through heavily favored Redlands, 10-7, in the second round, before losing to eventual CIF champion Fountain Valley in the semifinals. Randy Starr caught a 27-yard pass from Harbor quarterback Dave Hitzel in a come-from-behind, fourth-quarter drive to set up the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left, when Hitzel scored a one-yard burst. Dave Thompson, Bob da Silva, Mike Johnson, Joey Kolina, Scott Mackay and Joe Carnahan were among the Sailors’ top players. Johnson carried for 143 yards on 36 rushes in the momentous victory. “Coach Pizzica stood for nothing less than a 110% commitment to a program that continues to carry on the traditions of hard-nosed football,” Kolina said.
- 8- 2013 – Newport Harbor 49, La Habra 48
In the CIF Southwest Division second round, Quest Truxton capped a remarkable game by intercepting a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game as the host Sailors (7-5) upset top-seeded La Habra (10-2). Tar fans stormed the field. Truxton caught 14 passes for 233 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner with 50 seconds left as he snagged a 16-yard scoring pass from quarterback Cole Norris, who later played at Northern Arizona University. Truxton caught the pass high and managed to keep his feet inbounds for the winning touchdown. In a wild, back-and-forth game, Norris threw for 474 yards and five touchdowns. “This is going to be one of those (games) that people are going to talk about,” said Coach Jeff Brinkley, whose team would later reach a CIF championship game for the eighth time in his illustrious 32-year career at Harbor.
- 9-1970 – Newport Harbor 7, Anaheim 0
For the first time since 1942, the Tars captured at least a share of a league championship and participated in the CIF playoffs, propelled by this Week 3 victory over longtime powerhouse Anaheim in a major upset win for Newport Harbor against legendary coach Clare Van Hoorebeke. Earlier in the year, Tar Ball leader and quarterback Alvin White and some buddies suggested that the team place American flags on the side of their helmets, in honor and respect of the U.S. military, and that tradition has never wavered since the opening of that new decade amid political protests, the Kent State shootings, division within the country and bon fire burnings of Vietnam War draft cards on college campuses. You can almost hear the period song and anti-war movement anthem “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival as Newport football lines up in a David-versus-Goliath situation against the massively favored Colonists and the most famous coach in Orange County football in the 1950s and ’60s. Anaheim was ranked No. 1 at the time in Orange County and No. 2 in CIF Division 1, but the Tars stunned the Colonists at Davidson Field before an estimated 7,000 fans. Jim Swick recovered an Anaheim fumble in the end zone for the game’s only touchdown, following a forced fumble by Newport Harbor’s Terry Albritton, a future world record-holder in the shot put. It was about muscle and mass for Tar Ball in the early 1970s.
- 10-1974 – Newport Harbor 17, Edison 16
In a Week 4 victory that put the Sailors in the driver’s seat for the Sunset League championship, the win sparked a winning streak that stretched into the CIF playoffs as Newport finished 10-2 in Coach Bill Pizzica’s first season. Down 16-10 late in the game, the Sailors came from behind after driving the length of the field, keyed by a 31-yard pass from quarterback Gordon Adams to Vinnie Mulroy, and highlighted by a six-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Mark Steverson with 36 seconds left. Edison had no timeouts after Harbor’s PAT by Art Sorce gave the Tars a one-point margin of victory. Adams, who later played at USC, replaced Steve Foley at quarterback because of an early ankle injury. Tailback Brian Theriot rushed for 88 yards on 11 carries for the Tars. Edison went for a field goal instead of a possible touchdown earlier in the fourth quarter, before the Tars came back. It was the first meeting ever between the two schools in front of a packed house at Huntington Beach High.
- 1-1992 – Newport Harbor 28, Corona del Mar 21
2018 – Newport Harbor 30, Sequoia 13
1942 – Newport Harbor 7, Santa Ana 0
2006 – Newport Harbor 21, Esperanza 13
1996 – Newport Harbor 23, Servite 16
1973 – Newport Harbor 34, South Hills 19
1979 – Newport Harbor 17, Edison 13
2005 – Newport Harbor 32, El Dorado 31 (OT)
1963 – Newport Harbor 7, Anaheim 0
1960 – Newport Harbor 20, La Habra 0
1955 – Newport Harbor 28, Fullerton 6
2013 – Newport Harbor 27, Los Alamitos 24 (OT)
1983 – Newport Harbor 7, Corona del Mar 3
1934 – Newport Harbor 6, Huntington Beach 0
1937 – Newport Harbor 7, Huntington Beach 0
1984 – Newport Harbor 26, Saddleback 26
1994 – Newport Harbor 27, Santa Margarita 23
1936 – Newport Harbor 32, Capistrano 0
1949 – Newport Harbor 40, Downey 0
1942 – Newport Harbor 54, Anaheim 0
2007 – Newport Harbor 7, Notre Dame 3
1977 – Newport Harbor 21, St. Francis 15
1978 – Newport Harbor 10, Redlands 7
1977 – Newport 14, West Covina 10
1992 – Newport Harbor 28, Rubidoux 14
1985 – Newport Harbor 24, Saddleback 21
1973 – Newport Harbor 21, Loara 17
1957 – Newport Harbor 7, Santa Ana 6
1963 – Newport Harbor 13, Corona del Mar 12
1934 – Newport Harbor 6, Huntington Beach 0
2001 – Newport Harbor 24, Irvine 0
1999 – Newport Harbor 12, Irvine 10
1931 – Newport Harbor 7, Capistrano 0
1989 – Newport Harbor 21, Glenn 20 (OT)
By Richard Dunn