NEWPORT BEACH — The past two weeks Newport Harbor High played its football games at Huntington Beach, always against some other school.
The Sailors finally met Huntington Beach on the field on Friday, but on their home turf. Playing at Davidson Field made a difference in a key Sunset League game.
Huntington Beach came to Newport Harbor undefeated in league play. The Oilers left with their first blemish as the Sailors came from behind to win, 20-17.
The victory was a huge one for Newport Harbor (4-4, 2-1 in league), which has won back-to-back league games. The Sailors moved closer to clinching a berth into the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs.
"This was for playoffs," wide receiver Quest Truxton said, knowing the Sailors need another victory in their final two league games to qualify for the postseason. "We knew it and they knew it."
Truxton and the Sailors prevented the Oilers from staying in a first-place tie with Edison (7-1, 3-0) in league.
Truxton hauled in seven passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Cole Norris. The two are big reasons why Newport Harbor is now sharing second place in league with Huntington Beach (4-4, 2-1) and Los Alamitos (6-2, 2-1).
Staying in that spot after next week favors the Sailors.
Next for Newport Harbor is a home date against Marina, which hasn't won a league contest in eight years. Coach Jeff Brinkley said his Sailors aren't overlooking the Vikings (3-5, 0-3), not after watching film on them while scouting Huntington Beach.
"One more win, hopefully we do [get into the postseason]," Brinkley said. "This league, everybody beats everybody, so you never know what's going to happen."
What Brinkley said he knew was that three points would decide the game against the Oilers. After the first quarter, his prediction didn't look so good.
The Oilers, ranked No. 8 in the Southwest Division, were on their way to remaining undefeated in league. They jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the opening quarter.
The team's ground game, featuring quarterback Kai Ross and running back Bowen Breunig, had its way with Newport Harbor's defense, finishing with 155 and 131 yards rushing, respectively. The defense eventually slowed down the Oilers' lone two runners in the second half.
The Sailors only allowed a field goal after the first quarter. The points came after Newport Harbor's defensive stand inside its 10-yard line. The Oilers, opening the second half with the ball, made it to the one, before settling for three points and a 17-7 lead.
They never scored again, thanks to defensive back Garrett Hall intercepting a pass and the defense stopping Huntington Beach on downs three times in the second half.
Newport Harbor needed stops after Norris' one-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone with 7:06 left to play. The Sailors took a 20-17 lead, marking the first time they were ahead.
Newport Harbor seemed to be in control with Talalelei Teaupa carrying the ball and the Sailors on the Oilers' 32 with less than five minutes left. Teaupa, who rushed 32 times for 183 yards, lost control of the handoff and Ross pounced on the ball.
The turnover gave the Oilers life. But once they crossed midfield, they turned the ball over on downs, coming up two yards short of the first-down marker.
Huntington Beach got one more shot with 97 seconds remaining. Starting on its own 23, the offense went nowhere. Then on fourth-and-10, defensive back Riley Gaddis sacked Ross.
It was over as the Sailors rallied for a much-needed win.
Newport Harbor 20, Huntington Beach 17
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington 14 – 0 – 3 – 0 – 17
Newport 0 – 7 – 7 – 6 – 20
HB – Valenzuela 29 pass from Ross (Marlow kick), 5:59.
HB – Ross 2 run (Marlow kick), 2:15.
NH – Truxton 6 pass from Norris (Schultz kick), 5:15.
HB – Marlow 17 FG, 7:47.
NH – Truxton 39 pass from Norris (Schultz kick), 5:02.
NH – Norris 1 run (kick failed), 7:06.
HB – Ross, 17-155, 1 TD.
NH – Teaupa, 32-183.
HB – Ross, 7-21-1, 99, 1 TD.
NH – Norris, 12-21-0, 148, 2 TDs.
HB – Valenzuela, 2-53, 1 TD.
NH – Truxton, 7-98, 2 TDs.