NEWPORT BEACH — The start to Coach Jeff Brinkley's 27th year at Newport Harbor High didn't go as planned.
On a night Brinkley tried to reach a coaching milestone, he made history for a different kind of reason.
The Sailors kicked off the season with a 27-21 loss at home to Trabuco Hills on Thursday, marking the first time they have dropped consecutive season openers under Brinkley.
The same team that beat the Sailors last year did so again at the start of this year.
Brinkley will have to wait another week for a shot to move all alone into the fifth spot when it comes to career wins as a coach in Orange County. He's still at 213 victories with the Sailors after their late rally came up short.
"We turned the ball over [four times]," said Brinkley as the reasons why the Sailors struggled. "We didn't play very well overall tonight. We've got to get a lot better."
Newport Harbor gets to improve at home next week, when it plays Loyola of Los Angeles.
The Sailors are at Davidson Field for the first four games of the season. The first one saw them go down, 14-0, early in the second quarter, and then, 27-7, midway through the fourth quarter.
The comeback attempt by the Sailors came after seeing Trabuco Hills record its third touchdown on the ground. J.T. Land hurt them with a four-yard touchdown run.
He stung the Sailors four minutes earlier. The linebacker caused quarterback Zach Wade to fumble with a blindside hit, giving Trabuco Hills the ball on Newport Harbor's 40-yard line.
The game wasn't over.
"A little scary at the end," Land said.
Wade, who threw for 161 yards and three touchdowns, with two interceptions, made it interesting toward the end. The senior threw two touchdowns in the fourth, a 30-yarder to Cory Stowell, and an 11-yarder to Quest Truxton, to cut the deficit to six points.
The touchdown pass to Truxton was the second time the two hooked up for scores. The second one came with 2:40 left to play.
On the ensuing kickoff, Newport Harbor didn't go for an onside kick. The move seemed to work out, until Land, on second-and-12, rushed for 15 yards. With the first down, he iced the game with 83 seconds left to play. Newport Harbor ran out of timeouts and the Mustangs were on their way to improving to 2-0.
"It was equally matched," said Brinkley, whose Sailors went into the game ranked No. 9 in the CIF Southern Southwest Division poll, while the Mustangs were unranked in the Pac-5 Division. "They had a game under their belt and didn't' turn the ball over quite as much as we did tonight."
The first two mistakes the Mustangs made came before their first drive and at the end of it.
The kick returner fielded the opening kickoff near the sideline and his momentum carried him out of bounds on the five-yard line. Trabuco Hills managed to get out of its own end.
The Sailors helped by jumping offside three times during the Mustangs' 16-play drive, which chewed seven minutes off the clock. The long drive resulted in zero points.
Wade, playing safety, stopped an end-around run for no gain on fourth-and-four. The Mustangs turned the ball over on downs. When the Sailors got their first crack on offense, they turned the ball over right away.
Matt Wood picked off a pass and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown. The Mustangs took a 7-0 lead with 3:31 left in the first quarter. They added to their lead five minutes later, after the Sailors went three-and-out and punted.
The second drive didn't last as long as the first, but this time they finished it. It took a little more than three minutes for the Mustangs to find the end zone.
On a bootleg to the left, quarterback Nathan Perry cut inside, fooling a would-be tackler, for an 11-yard touchdown run. At this point, Trabuco Hills recorded more touchdowns than the Sailors had first downs.
The defense kept Newport Harbor in the game.
The other time the Mustangs got near the Sailors' red zone, it happened after the punter mishandled the snap. He fumbled and the Mustangs recovered the ball on the Sailors' 31.
They didn't go far and turned the ball over on downs for the second time on fourth-and-short in the first half. Perry fumbled the exchange from center and fell on the ball four yards behind the line of scrimmage.
The second stop by the defense sparked Newport Harbor's offense. Wade's first completion turned out to be a 66-yard touchdown pass to Truxton. Wade hit a wide-open Truxton, who cut the Sailors' deficit in half with four minutes to go before halftime.
Not much happened in the way of offense for Newport in the next 22 minutes of action. The Sailors put themselves in a hole, leading them to drop back-to-back season openers for the first time under Brinkley.
Trabuco Hills 27, Newport Harbor 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Trabuco Hills 7 – 7 – 6 – 7 – 27
Newport Harbor 0 – 7 – 0 – 14 – 21
TH – Wood 28 interception return (Cuzzupoli kick), 3:31.
TH – Perry 11 run (Cuzzupoli kick), 10:06.
NH – Truxton 66 pass from Wade (Schultz kick), 4:00.
TH – Reck 2 run (Cuzzupoli kick), 3:19.
TH – Land 4 run (Cuzzupoli kick), 6:35.
NH – Stowell 30 pass from Wade (Schultz kick), 5:11.
NH – Truxton 11 pass from Wade (Schultz kick), 2:40.
TH – Reck, 30-89, 1 TD.
NH – Teaupa, 16-59.
TH – Perry, 7-16-1, 62.
NH – Wade, 10-20-2, 161, 3 TDs.
TH – C. Breeland, 3-22.
NH – Truxton, 3-96, 2 TDs.