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Justin McCoy’s late TD caps Newport Harbor football comeback win over Monrovia in CIF Division 9 quarterfinal

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Newport Harbor celebrates after pulling off a 24-20 come-from-behind win against Monrovia in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs on Friday at Davidson Field.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

It’s no longer a difficult sell for the Newport Harbor High football team to believe it can win, even when facing a double-digit deficit in the second half of a CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoff game.

But the Sailors’ second straight comeback, a 24-20 win over No. 3-seeded Monrovia in the quarterfinals at home Friday, capped by a winning touchdown in the final minute for the second consecutive game, came down to a “Cole” call.

Junior quarterback Cole Lavin, seeing his first action at the position off the bench since injuring a knee in the fifth game of the season, called an audible to set up the game-winning score against Monrovia at Davidson Field.

Lavin, whose six-yard touchdown run on a run-pass option keeper midway through the fourth quarter pulled Newport Harbor within 20-17, changed an RPO aimed for the left side to a running play toward the right on the 10th play of the game-winning drive. The result was Justin McCoy sweeping to the right side and leaping into the end zone with 47 seconds left.

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The winning three-yard touchdown run, one week after a scoring pass with 28 seconds remaining gave the Sailors their first playoff win since 2013, propelled Newport Harbor (9-3) into a semifinal clash at top-seeded Palmdale Highland (9-3) on Nov. 22.

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Newport Harbor’s Justin McCoy gets upended on a tackle by Monrovia’s Daylen Wilson in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

McCoy, who carried seven times for 28 yards on the final drive against Monrovia (10-2), collected 79 of his 102 rushing yards after halftime against the Wildcats, the Rio Hondo League champions who came in on an eight-game winning streak. He followed blocks by tackle Grayson Simon and guard Cole McCunniff just inside the pylon for the go-ahead score.

Monrovia, which continually converted on third- and fourth-down situations to keep the upper hand on the Sailors, ran three plays in a last-ditch effort to survive and advance. But the Sailors tackled three ballcarriers on a desperation lateral play on the final snap to spark a wild celebration.

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“[Lavin, who lined up in shotgun formation] checked us to an outside zone play,” Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse said of the winning score. “And then Justin McCoy being Justin McCoy found the end zone.”

Lavin, who gave a different look to starting quarterback Nick Kim, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 162 yards and one touchdown, said he noticed the Monrovia defense was loaded up against what would have been a run to the left.

“There were three guys [in the targeted hole on the left] so that play was dead,” Lavin said. “So I checked to an outside zone on the right side. [The Wildcats] didn’t have an edge player, so we had the field and it worked.”

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Newport Harbor’s Johnny Brigandi goes for a ride while tackling Monrovia’s Tyree Myles in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The winning drive was set up by a strip-sack by Newport Harbor linebacker Erik Hehl, who separated the ball from Monrovia quarterback Nick Hernandez, who completed 17 of 26 passes for 137 yards. Hehl said fellow linebacker Zach Debernarde recovered the ball, giving the Sailors possession at their own 36-yard line with 3:24 left.

Newport Harbor, which fumbled the ball away on its opening possession after the Wildcats marched 71 yards on 12 plays with the opening kickoff to take a 7-0 lead, got an interception by cornerback Austin Muro and a fumble recovery by Hehl, to help hold down a productive Monrovia offense. Devon Mayes ran 22 times for 108 yards for the Wildcats.

Hehl’s fumble recovery near midfield late in the first quarter sparked the Sailors’ first score. Three plays later, Kim adjusted in the pocket and hit Aidan Goltz on a 35-yard post pattern to knot the score at 7-7.

After the Wildcats went 60 yards on 13 plays to go up 14-7, a Wade Tankersley 27-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the half cut into the deficit.

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After a scoreless third quarter, Tyree Miles scored to put the visitors up 20-10 with 11:26 left in the game.

Goltz finished with 100 yards on nine receptions to help Newport Harbor advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2013, when the Sailors made the Southwest Division final, the program’s eighth section finals appearance. He also had a sack on the final Monrovia possession.

“We fight,” Lavin said of his team’s determination when trailing. “We were down a lot this game and we have been down a lot this season. We come back a lot. We love it. We don’t get down on ourselves, we just keep fighting and chipping away and play until the last second.”

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Newport Harbor’s Aidan Goltz catches a pass on the sideline against Monrovia in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs on Friday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

CIF Southern Section Division 9 playoffs

Quarterfinal

Newport Harbor 24, Monrovia 20

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SCORE BY QUARTERS

Monrovia 7 – 7 – 0 – 6 — 20

Newport Harbor 7 – 3 – 0 – 14 — 24

FIRST QUARTER

M – Hernandez 1 run (Gomez kick), 8:24.

NH – Goltz 35 pass from Kim (Starnes kick), 0:23.

SECOND QUARTER

M – Wilson 12 run (Gomez kick), 8:30.

NH – Tankersley 27 FG, 2:42.

FOURTH QUARTER

M – Myles 2 run (run failed), 11:26.

NH – Lavin 6 run (Tankersley kick), 7:10.

NH – McCoy 3 run (Tankersley kick), 0:47.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

M – Mayes, 22-108.

NH – McCoy, 23-102, 1 TD.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

M – Hernandez, 17-26-1, 137.

NH – Kim, 19-32-0, 163, 1 TD.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

M – Minor, 9-118.

NH – Goltz, 9-100, 1 TD.

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