There will be tougher tests down the road, but that doesn’t mean the Newport Harbor High football team isn’t gaining confidence with every victory.
The Sailors hadn’t strung four of them together to start a season in well more than a decade. That changed Friday night.
Junior quarterback Cole Lavin threw two touchdowns to senior receiver Aidan Goltz as Newport Harbor beat Santa Monica 31-14 in a nonleague game at Davidson Field.
With the win in their home opener, the Sailors are off to their first 4-0 start since 2004.
Junior running back Justin McCoy had two rushing touchdowns for the Sailors and also caught eight passes for 102 yards, as the Sailors eased to the victory on their senior night.
“It feels amazing, really amazing,” Sailors senior linebacker and team captain Johnny Brigandi said. “We’ve been working really hard. We’ve built a better foundation from last year. I felt that we had a lot of juniors coming back from last year that are seniors now. We just had a good foundation and I knew it was going to pay off.
“We feel very conditioned and very strong, and also it’s our brotherhood. A lot of us started last year as juniors too, so we know what the expectation is. We know what we’re supposed to do, so we’ve just got to fulfill that and stay high energy, run the ball, be aggressive.”
Newport Harbor, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 9, only allowed a couple of big plays to Santa Monica (2-2). The defense, which got a fumble recovery by senior linebacker Chad Koste and an interception by senior cornerback Austin Muro, consistently put Newport Harbor in good field position.
The Sailors started six of their drives in the game either at midfield or in Santa Monica territory. They still showed they could put together a longer drive drive, going 74 yards in 13 plays just before halftime. Lavin rolled right before finding Goltz back over the middle on a seven-yard score, giving the Sailors a 17-0 halftime advantage.
Goltz, who caught seven passes for 61 yards, had his first two receiving touchdowns of the season. He also caught a seven-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter, wrestling the ball away from a Santa Monica defensive back in the end zone.
“The thing that was huge about Justin’s performance, it kind of freed up some opportunities for Aidan Goltz on the outside,” Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse said. “The emphasis went to the box, and that provided some one-on-one opportunities. Aidan has been making a lot of plays throughout the year, but this was the first time we got him into the end zone. He made some key plays in some one-on-one tight windows, and a lot of that was because Justin was so effective in the run game and the pass game. We needed to get those two guys going, so it was great for us.”
Newport Harbor blanked Santa Monica until midway through the third quarter, when senior quarterback Anthony Arnou finally was able to make a couple of big completions on the same drive. He connected with Donovan Parks for 59 yards, and two plays later he found Colby Bell along the right sideline for a 32-yard touchdown.
But Arnou required 44 pass attempts to tally his 244 passing yards.
With the Sailors up big in the fourth quarter, Lofthouse was able to insert AJ Guitron-Moore at quarterback, and sophomores Christian Beatty and Hayden Farley got touches at running back.
“These kids are doing a great job of just buying into what we’ve been teaching them, which is that process, the process of winning,” said Lofthouse, whose team hosts San Marino on Sept. 27, and also hosts Fountain Valley in its Sunset League opener on Oct. 4. “Is it ever as pretty as we want it? No, but it’s ultimately leading to those critical ‘Ws’ that we need. These wins are giving us more confidence, and ultimately when we get to those big games, it is challenges like this that are going to provide the experience to be prepared. Sunset League is coming around the corner.”
Newport Harbor 31, Santa Monica 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Santa Monica 0 – 0 – 6 – 8 — 14
Newport Harbor 3 – 14 –7 – 7 — 31
NH – Starnes 31 FG, 3:02.
NH – McCoy 1 run (Starnes kick), 11:12.
NH – Goltz 7 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), :38.
NH – McCoy 2 run (Starnes kick), 6:38.
SM – Bell 32 pass from Arnou (run failed), 4:32.
NH – Goltz 7 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), 11:55.
SM – Gomez 10 pass from Arnou (Bell pass from Arnou), 4:31.
SM – Smith, 6-13.
NH – McCoy, 19-63.
SM – Arnou, 20-44-1, 244, 1 TD.
NH – Lavin, 22-36-1, 241, 2 TDs.
SM – Parks, 3-70.
NH – McCoy, 8-102.
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