For the second straight week, the Newport Harbor High football team showed it wasn’t moved by recent history. But erasing a 14-3 second-half deficit in a 24-14 nonleague win at Aliso Niguel on Friday helped the Sailors close a lengthier historical gap.
With the win, the second straight come-from-behind triumph, Newport Harbor improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2010. Coach Peter Lofthouse’s Tars also matched their win total from 2018.
The Sailors, ranked No. 4 in CIF Southern Section Division 9, scored on three straight possessions to post 21 unanswered points, clicking suddenly and consistently after largely sputtering on offense for more than a half.
It was the defense, however, that gained the bulk of the praise from Lofthouse.
“The defense played a phenomenal game tonight,” Lofthouse said. “[It was] lights out.”
The Sailors, who fumbled the ball away on two of their first three possessions, created challenges for their defense, as did the Wolverines (2-1), who came in ranked No. 5 in Division 8.
But Newport Harbor forced a 52-yard field-goal attempt that failed, then recovered two Aliso Niguel fumbles on successive possessions to help keep things scoreless.
The second Newport Harbor fumble recovery led to a 23-yard field goal by Wade Tankersley to open the scoring early in the second quarter, but Aliso Niguel scored 13 seconds before halftime to take a 7-3 lead into intermission.
The Wolverines drove 68 yards on nine plays with the second-half kickoff to up the lead to 11 points, but failed to score the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the Sailors got things going offensively behind the tenacious running of junior running back Justin McCoy, the streaking passing and scrambling of junior quarterback Cole Lavin, and the big-play receiving of Aiden Goltz.
McCoy finished with 136 yards on 19 rushing attempts, including touchdown runs of three and 38 yards. The latter came one snap after Mason Depoy recovered a muffled Aliso Niguel punt reception attempt to finalize the scoring with 2:55 left in the game.
Goltz, who did not have a reception in the first half (though his would-be 29-yard touchdown pass from Lavin was nullified by an offensive interference call), caught five second-half passes for 69 yards. Goltz had back-to-back grabs for 23 and 21 yards, and also drew a pass-interference penalty to help key a 79-yard scoring drive that gave the Sailors the lead for good early in the fourth quarter.
Lavin, who had 101 passing yards, connected on his first two attempts. He had just one completion in his next 10 tries, but completed his final six passes to help put the game away. Lavin also managed to produce 84 rushing yards, despite being sacked six times.
“Once we started gaining confidence and gaining a little momentum in our running game, we were able to start opening up our passing game a little more,” Lofthouse said. “As a result, we were able to get guys like Aiden Goltz making plays, and control the line of scrimmage there late in the game. That’s what got us over the hump.”
The Sailors have conquered a three-game season-opening road schedule. Seeking their first playoff berth since 2014, they will now play at home at Davidson Field in six of their final seven regular-season games.
Aliso Niguel quarterback Kyle Kyckelhahn completed 21 of 33 passes for 235 yards and rushed for 40 yards on 18 attempts. He was sacked three times, however, and his final pass was intercepted by Spencer O’Bryan.
Defensive standouts for Newport Harbor also included linebackers Brendan Duffy, Johnny Brigandi and Chad Koste, and end Kris Kirnbauer.
Newport Harbor had 12 penalties for 117 yards, while Aliso Niguel was flagged nine times for 100 yards.
Newport Harbor 24, Aliso Niguel 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 0 – 3 – 7 – 14 — 24
Aliso Niguel 0 – 7 – 7 – 0 — 14
NH – Takersley 23 FG, 9:35.
AN – Ellis 4 pass from Kyckelhahn (Vescovi kick), :13.
AN – Christner 3 run (Vescovi kick), 7:42.
NH – McCoy 3 run (Takersley kick), 1:05.
NH – Lavin 8 run (Tankersley kick), 9:09.
NH – McCoy 38 run (Tankersley kick), 2:55.
NH– McCoy, 19-136, 2 TDs.
AN – Christner, 14-72, 1 TD.
NH – Lavin, 9-18-0, 101.
AN – Kyckelhahn, 21-33-1, 235, 1 TD.
NH – Goltz, 5-69.
AN – Peterson, 9-175.
Support our sports coverage by becoming a digital subscriber.