Several members of the 1994 Newport Harbor High football team watched Friday night’s Sunset League game against Los Alamitos from just behind the north end zone.
That 1994 team is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the squad that went undefeated and won the program’s first CIF Southern Section championship.
The 2019 Sailors’ dreams of an undefeated season came to a sudden end at Davidson Field at the hands of visiting Los Alamitos.
The Griffins rode an unstoppable rushing attack to a 44-3 victory, handing Newport Harbor its first loss of the season.
Los Alamitos (3-5, 2-1 in league) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the Sunset League with Newport Harbor (7-1, 2-1) and Edison (5-3, 2-1). The Griffins did so in convincing fashion, rushing for a school-record 497 yards.
Sophomore Josiah Murray had 15 carries for 194 yards and three touchdowns, while senior Jaiden Mitchell had 22 carries for 183 yards and a touchdown. Senior Oscar Brown V needed just four carries to tally 90 yards and a score.
“We haven’t had the big play this year, per se,” Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said. “I think our longest run was 31 yards up to [tonight]. It was a point of emphasis this week in practice. We quoted Gale Sayers, ‘Just give me 18 inches of daylight,’ because we think our backs have that speed. We were just trying to create a little bit of space inside tonight, and it showed.”
Conversely, the Griffins were able to limit Newport Harbor junior running back Justin McCoy, who came in riding big games in league wins over Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach, to 10 carries for 10 yards.
Los Alamitos took a quick 14-0 lead over Newport Harbor, ranked No. 2 in CIF Southern Section Division 9. The Griffins used a 62-yard touchdown run by Mitchell on their second drive for the early lead.
Seventy-one seconds later, the visitors got an 81-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Nolan McConnell to senior receiver Noah Kelly.
“The first quarter, we were terrible,” said Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse, who did highlight a few nice punts from Kaden Stowell that helped the Sailors in the field position battle. “Offensively, defensively. We missed a few tackles, and offensively we found it difficult to get Justin McCoy going. When that happened, we just never were able to get that spark moving to get us into the flow that is our offense. Ultimately, I think the first quarter kind of set the tone throughout the whole game. If we had started better in the first quarter, I think we would have played with a lot more confidence the rest of the game.”
Lofthouse said the Sailors didn’t have a good week of practice leading up to the game, and it showed. He did give credit to the Griffins’ defense, led by senior nose guard Zatyvion Miller, as well as their overall team speed.
“They’re special,” Lofthouse said. “That team is explosive. That’s the most explosive team we’ve faced all year, without a doubt. Their team speed is incredible. They caused us a lot of problems, and a lot of stress for our football team.”
Los Alamitos intercepted Newport Harbor sophomore quarterback Nick Kim four times, two of those recorded by Cochese Bradshaw. The Griffins have moved back into contention after starting league with a 42-21 loss to Edison.
“After the Edison game, we added it up,” Fenton said. “We had 18 giveaways and three takeaways for the season, and we were 1-5. We put an emphasis on ball security, taking care of the football on one side, and we had to create some turnovers. Three for the season was inexcusable.”
The Griffins did so against the Sailors, who will have to rebound as they play first-place Back Bay rival Corona del Mar (8-0, 3-0) in the Battle of the Bay game on Oct. 25.
“This is going to be a learning experience,” Lofthouse said. “Ultimately, these three games [against Los Alamitos, CdM and the league finale against Edison at home on Oct. 31] and are going to test us physically and mentally. We have to be able to prepare for those matchups. If we get to the playoffs — which we believe and hope we will — these kind of games are going to prepare us for that big game in the playoffs, when it’s do or die.”
Los Alamitos 44, Newport Harbor 3
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Los Alamitos 14 – 13 – 7 – 10 — 44
Newport Harbor 0 – 3 –0 – 0 — 3
LA – Mitchell 62 run (Shafton kick), 8:48.
LA – Kelly 81 pass from McConnell (Shafton kick), 7:37.
NH – Starnes 27 FG, 11:09.
LA – Murray 10 run (Shafton kick), 5:07.
LA – Murray 75 run (kick blocked), 3:53.
NH – Goltz 7 pass from Lavin (Starnes kick), 0:38.
LA – Murray 60 run (Shafton kick), 2:06.
LA – Shafton 23 FG, 10:39.
LA – Brown 52 run (Shafton kick), 5:59.
LA – Murray, 15-194, 3 TDs.
NH – McCoy, 10-10.
LA – McConnell, 4-6-0, 110, 1 TD.
NH – Kim, 20-46-4, 221.
LA – Kelly, 1-81, 1 TD.
NH – Goltz, 6-68.
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