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Newport Harbor rallies late to beat Santa Monica

Newport Harbor rallies late to beat Santa Monica
Newport Harbor High's Aidan Goltz, shown catching a touchdown pass against Redwood City Sequoia on Aug. 24, helped the Sailors improve to 3-1 on Friday. (Christine Cotter)

Four games into the football season, and Newport Harbor High has already surpassed last year’s win total.

Sophomore running back Justin McCoy rushed for a six-yard touchdown with 16 seconds remaining, lifting the Sailors to 28-21 nonleague win over Santa Monica at Santa Monica College on Friday night.

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The Sailors (3-1) won their second straight game under first-year coach Peter Lofthouse. Newport Harbor went 2-8 last year.

McCoy stepped in for running back Jake Keliikoa, who got hurt during the game. McCoy rushed for two touchdowns, including the game’s first score, coming on a one-yard run early in the second quarter.

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Quarterback Cole Lavin and wide receiver Aidan Goltz also two hooked up for a seven-yard touchdown pass during Newport Harbor’s 20-point second quarter. Jack Starnes converted two field goals in the quarter.

Santa Monica (1-3) responded in the second half with three touchdowns, two coming in the fourth quarter, both on long plays. Melvin Hicks caught a 75-yard touchdown pass. Then with 2:07 left to play, Kobe White returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown, helping Santa Monica take a 21-20 lead.

On the ensuing drive, McCoy kept the chains moving on a fourth-down run. Lavin also connected with Goltz on a 25-yard pass on third down, setting up the Sailors at the opponent’s 11 with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Three plays later, McCoy scored the game-winning touchdown.

“We’ve had some injuries at the running back spot and he was actually playing [defensive back] for us,” Lofthouse said of McCoy. “We moved him over to running back just because he’s a good athlete and he’s really stepped up for us in a big way.”

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