The Battle of the Bay high school football rivalry game returned to Davidson Field for the first time in three years. The last two years it took place at Orange Coast College because of renovations to Davidson Field.
The site hasn’t really mattered in recent years to CdM. The Sea Kings even let the Sailors play host to the annual event this year because of the reopening of the stadium, which is on Newport Harbor’s campus.
Wherever the Sea Kings and Sailors have met since 2013, it has had the same outcome: a CdM double-digit win.
The Sea Kings beat the Sailors 39-21 in the 56th edition of game Friday, and they made history in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,946. For the first time in the series, CdM has defeated Newport Harbor five years in a row.
The Sea Kings (3-1), ranked No. 4 in the CIF Southern Section Division 4 poll, came out firing in the first quarter, jumping to a 20-0 lead. They scored on each of their three possessions. Nathaniel Espinoza threw a 10-yard touchdown to TaeVeon Le, then an 18-yard touchdown to John Humphreys, and in the middle of those two scores was a 22-yard touchdown run by J.T. Murphy.
“We played perfect football,” CdM coach Dan O’Shea said of the first 12 minutes.
“We have so much respect for Newport Harbor that we are beyond thrilled to be fortunate enough to win it five times in a row, especially against coach [Jeff] Brinkley.”
Brinkley’s Sailors fought back, and helping their cause were costly CdM penalties and a turnover. The Sea Kings let winless Newport Harbor get back in it.
At one point, the Sailors cut the deficit to 27-14 at the 8:36 mark in the third quarter. And they had a chance to get closer after Jake Bashore picked off Espinoza, who threw his first interception of the year. But the Sea Kings responded, forcing a punt.
The Sailors got within 33-21 with 7:42 left in the fourth quarter on Sam Barela’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Raphael Cruz. That was as close as Newport Harbor, No. 9 in Division 6, got.
Now Newport Harbor is off to its first 0-3 start under Brinkley, who’s in his 32nd year at the school. The previous time Newport Harbor lost its first three games of the season was 36 years ago. The Sailors wound up finishing 1-9 that year in 1981.
“They got a good club,” Brinkley said of the Sea Kings. “The shoe is on the other foot the last couple of years [in the rivalry]. We had our run.”
The Sailors still have a 38-18 edge in the series, but CdM owns the Back Bay again, thanks to its running game.
Murphy, Espinoza and Alex Pourdanesh were too much for Newport Harbor. Murphy ran 15 times for 108 yards and three touchdowns, Espinoza 14 times for 72 yards and Pourdanesh seven times for 55 yards and a touchdown.
The Sea Kings outgained Newport Harbor 245-89 on the ground. The longest run play did belong to the Sailors, as Barela ran a naked bootleg and scored on a 46-yard run in the second quarter.
Barela also tried to make it interesting with his two second-half touchdown passes. He completed 14 of 28 passes for 142 yards.
“We made a few plays,” Brinkley said, “but they just responded right back.”
Going down right away did not help the Sailors. Less than three minutes in, CdM struck.
Erik Zimmerman set the CdM offense up in great field position, returning a punt 25 yards inside the Sailors’ 30-yard line. A couple plays later, on a read-option play, Espinoza faked the handoff and found Le wide open in the end zone. Le’s slant resulted in an easy 10-yard touchdown catch.
Everything came relatively easy to the Sea Kings in the opening quarter.
Their second score came right after Humphreys’ 40-yard grab got the offense near the red zone. A play later, Murphy scored his first touchdown.
The Sailors finally got a first down, on a Barela 10-yard run midway through the first quarter. When the Sailors had a chance to move the chains again, they opted to go deep on third-and-one on their 41. The play almost burned CdM, as Justin Shollin had a step on Joey Flanigan, but Flanigan broke up the pass near CdM’s 20-yard line.
Newport Harbor punted, and CdM would end up scoring again 2½ minutes later.
Pourdanesh and Espinoza ripped 17- and 24-yard runs, respectively. The only issue was Espinoza barely overthrew Mark Redman in the end zone, giving him his first incomplete pass. Espinoza, who completed 11 of 15 passes for 164 yards, got back to completing passes. It came at a good time for CdM. Faced with a fourth-and-two, Espinoza threw one up for Humphreys in the end zone and the 6-foot-5 sophomore jumped and snagged it for a touchdown.
While CdM dominated the first 12 minutes, it slowed down a bit in the second quarter. The Sea Kings only had the ball twice in the second quarter, and in between those two drives, Newport Harbor ended the shutout bid.
Barela struggled holding onto the ball twice on the Sailors’ lone scoring drive in the first half. He fumbled the snap on third-and-one on CdM’s 45-yard line, and the Sailors recovered the ball a yard behind the line of scrimmage.
The Sailors went for it on fourth-and-two, running a bootleg to the right for Barela. He lost the ball again, but thanks to the turf, the ball bounced right back to him. He had no one near him, and he got more than the first down, running for a 46-yard touchdown. Newport Harbor trailed 20-7 with 3:07 left before halftime.
There was plenty of time for CdM’s no-huddle offense to score again. Pourdanesh ran for 21 yards, Espinoza hit Murphy on a 23-yard pass. Once near the Sailors’ 15-yard line, CdM ran, and Murphy rumbled in for a five-yard touchdown.
Twenty-six seconds remained in the first half, and it looked as though the Sea Kings were on their way to defeating the Sailors for the fifth straight year.
“It’s great. I love it,” Murphy said of knocking off Newport Harbor. “We play this game for our community.”
Corona del Mar 39, Newport Harbor 21
Corona del Mar………….20 7 6 6 — 39
Newport Harbor…………0 7 7 7 — 21
CdM – Le 10 pass from Espinoza (Casper kick), 9:27.
CdM – Murphy 22 run (Casper kick), 6:35.
CdM – Humphreys 18 pass from Espinoza (kick failed), 1:41.
NH – Barela 46 run (Schroeder kick), 3:07.
CdM – Murphy 5 run (Casper kick), :26.
NH – Williams 16 pass from Barela (Schroeder kick), 8:36.
CdM – A. Pourdanesh 4 run (run failed), 1:39.
NH – Cruz 34 pass from Barela (Schroeder kick), 7:42.
CdM – Murphy 2 run (run failed), 4:41.
CdM – Murphy, 15-108, 3 TDs.
NH – Barela, 11-47, 1 TD.
CdM – Espinoza, 11-15-1, 164, 2 TDs.
NH – Barela, 14-28-0, 142, 2 TDs.
CdM – Humphreys, 3-82, 1 TD.
NH – Cruz, 5-74, 1 TD.