Newport Harbor High football coach Peter Lofthouse figured that a full offseason of preparation would go a long way toward getting his team ready going into his second season.
The Sailors closed out last season by going winless in the Sunset League, and Lofthouse said that those defeats served as a powerful motivator.
He found his team committing to the weight room and the film sessions, but it was now time to see how the hard work translated on the field against a comparable opponent.
Newport Harbor produced four turnovers and a safety on defense, and the visiting Sailors defeated Woodbridge 26-10 in a season opener on Friday night at University High.
“It’s a great victory for our young men because at the end of last season, a lot of our juniors who are now seniors really felt like they ended the year on such a sour note,” Lofthouse said. “They felt like if we could get to the playoffs, we would have a real shot in the division that we’re in.”
In a matchup of two teams that are part of Division 9 in the CIF Southern Section, Newport Harbor enforced its will on both sides of the ball.
Woodbridge successfully recovered an onside kick, but the drive stalled in the red zone when the Sailors jumped on a fumble. From that point, the Warriors could not get much going offensively.
On its own opening drive, Newport Harbor drove 85 yards, picking up five first downs along the way. Cole Lavin completed five of eight attempts on the drive for 57 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown to Austin Muro.
“That felt great,” Lavin said. “I don’t think that there is any better way than just shoving the ball down their throat all the way down the field. That pretty much chewed up the entire first quarter and really set the tone for the rest of the game.”
Woodbridge tied the game when Carry Rainey jumped a hitch route and wrestled the ball away from Aidan Goltz for a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The Warriors briefly took a 10-7 lead in the second quarter following an interception by Tommy Prince. Woodbridge settled for a 29-yard field goal by Jakob Trestik.
Goltz responded with a 54-yard kickoff return to set Newport Harbor up at the Woodbridge 42. Muro had a 29-yard catch and run on the drive, and Lavin scored from one yard out on an option run.
Newport Harbor had three interceptions in the game. Weak-side pressure from Kris Kirnbauer helped the Sailors secure the first, as Spencer O’Bryan picked off a pass from Ethan Assayag.
Jack Starnes made a 31-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give Newport Harbor a 17-10 lead.
The third quarter belonged to Newport Harbor linebacker Johnny Brigandi. He had an interception to open the second half, and he later blocked a punt in the end zone that resulted in a safety.
“It was big for me to come out and read that play,” Brigandi said of his interception. “I knew they run a hitch on the outside. I’ve been seeing that on film.
“I saw the hitch. We learned in practice to never turn your head unless you’re connected. I got close enough to turn my head toward the ball, and I just made a play on it. It was pretty exciting.”
Kaden Stowell also had an interception for the Sailors, and Brendan Duffy had two sacks.
Justin McCoy carried the ball 16 times for 88 yards. His three-yard rushing score with 2:44 left in the third quarter resulted in the final score of the game.
Lavin completed 17 of 28 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown.
“Last year, I think it was after the third game, we finally committed to say, ‘He is our quarterback of the future. We’re going to get him the reps,’ ” Lofthouse said of Lavin, who is a junior. “He’s worked his tail off as well, so we’re very proud of him.”
Newport Harbor 26, Woodbridge 10
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 7 – 10 – 9 – 0 — 26
Woodbridge 0 – 10 – 0 – 0 — 10
Muro 13 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), 4:25.
W – Rainey 23 INT return (Trestik kick), 9:07.
W – Trestik 29 FG, 6:38.
NH – Lavin 1 run (Starnes kick), 4:53.
NH – Starnes 31 FG, :00.
NH – Brigandi punt block for a safety, 5:31.
NH – McCoy 3 run (Starnes kick), 2:44.
NH – McCoy, 16-88, 1 TD.
W – Tipple, 11-55.
NH – Lavin, 17-28-2, 191, 1 TD.
W – Smith, 4-6-1, 30.
NH – Muro, 5-88, 1 TD.
W – Dube, 3-28.
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