Junior quarterback Cole Lavin threw five touchdown passes to lead host Newport Harbor High to a 48-7 nonleague football win over San Marino on Friday as the Sailors improved to 5-0 this season.
But perhaps more important to the Sailors, ranked No. 3 in CIF Southern Section Division 9 and off to their best start since 2004 heading into the Sunset League opener on Oct. 4 against Fountain Valley, were the four words uttered by Lavin seconds before the end of the game while sitting upright on a training table with a brace around his injured left knee.
“I heard a pop,” said Lavin, who completed 17 of 23 passes for 161 yards and five touchdowns, and at one point completed 16 straight passing attempts. “Someone rolled up on me.”
Lavin went down after throwing a rare incomplete pass with 8:30 left in the third quarter. He limped off the field without assistance, but his somber expression after the game belied coach Peter Lofthouse’s hopeful words following the convincing victory.
“We’re not sure the prognosis yet with Cole,” Lofthouse said. “We’ll find that out probably later in the week. I just know it’s a lower-body deal and he’ll go see the doctor. They are not sure whether we are talking ligament or a kneecap kind of thing right now. Any time you hear the word ‘pop,’ you think ligament, but hopefully we’ll get good news and he’ll be back with us sooner than later.”
Sooner was much less impressive than later for the Sailors against the Titans (1-5). The visitors scored on their first offensive snap, one play after intercepting a pass on their 29 to end Newport Harbor’s opening drive.
A 71-yard catch and run from Nick Mavridis to Trond Grizzell gave San Marino its only lead. It was, however, about the only highlight produced by the Titans.
Lavin’s accurate passing, spread among seven receivers, and a stifling defense helped the Tars answer the opening missteps in convincing fashion.
Led by linebackers Johnny Brigandi, Chad Koste, Zach Debernarde and Andrew Cheiner, among others, Newport Harbor held San Marino to minus-51 yards rushing. And, after its windfall opening pass, San Marino added just 34 aerial yards.
Timothy Tizon and Michael Morrison had sacks for the Sailors, for whom Koste, Brigandi (two), Debernarde and Nathan Peters also had tackles for losses.
On 14 of the Titans’ 22 rushing attempts, the visitors lost yardage, including three errant shotgun snaps that netted negative 39 yards. The Tars also stopped two pass completions behind the line and three additional runs gained zero yards.
In addition, Brigandi blocked a field-goal attempt to end the first half, and Trevor Muir blocked a punt to set up a short Newport Harbor touchdown drive.
Mavridis scrambled 11 yards in the final minute against backup defenders to produce the Titans’ biggest ground gain — 11 yards — and their lone rushing first down.
“Our defense has been strong all year,” Lofthouse said. “[Defensive coordinator John] Arredondo and the defensive staff deserve all the credit. I’m very happy to hear [about the minus-51-yard rushing output] I don’t know if that has ever happened before.”
Lofthouse praised the play of sophomore backup quarterback AJ Moore (five for seven for 63 passing yards and one touchdown on Friday), and also mentioned the possible future contribution of sophomore Nick Kim, a transfer from JSerra, should Lavin miss extended time.
“AJ played well in backup duty and Kim, who becomes eligible, showed some really nice ability throwing the football and being able to make plays during the summer,” Lofthouse said. “Our kids are comfortable with either kid that is in there, though Cole does bring a great dynamic with his legs.”
Newport Harbor 48, San Marino 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
San Marino 7 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 7
Newport Harbor 14 – 13 – 14 – 7 — 48
SM – Grizzell 71 pass from Mavridis (Evans kick), 10:10.
NH – Walker 4 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), 5:14.
NH – Goltz 22 pass from Lavin (Tankersley kick), 1:44.
NH – Peters 4 pass from Lavin (pass failed), 9:02.
NH – Keliikoa 15 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), 5:47.
NH – Keliikoa 15 pass from Lavin (Tankersley kick), 11:44.
NH – Muro 25 pass from Moore (Starnes kick), 4:10.
NH – Farley 1 run (Tankersley kick), 3:15.
SM – Singhal, 10-min-7.
NH – McCoy, 11-44.
SM – Mavridis, 7-12-0, 105, 1 TD.
NH – Lavin, 17-23-1, 161, 5 TDs.
SM – Grizzell, 4-106, 1 TD.
NH – Goltz, 6-84, 1 TD.
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