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Mistakes hurt Newport Harbor football in loss to Capistrano Valley

Newport Harbor's Payton Irving (34) reaches the end zone for a touchdown with Duke Starnes (9) and  Grayson Simon (70).
Newport Harbor running back Payton Irving (34) steps into the end zone for a touchdown with Duke Starnes (9) and lineman Grayson Simon (70) during a nonleague football game against Capistrano Valley on Friday at Davidson Field.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It was the third game of the season, but Newport Harbor High football coach Peter Lofthouse said Friday night’s game against Capistrano Valley almost felt like an opener again.

The Sailors received an unplanned early bye week, after they were forced to postpone their game against JSerra scheduled for Sept. 2 because of a positive COVID-19 test from a player and contact tracing.

Friday’s contest featured plenty of Newport Harbor penalties — 15 in all — and the game was stopped at least four times due to Sailors players cramping, including running back Payton Irving and top receiver Kashton Henjum.

“It feels a little bit like it’s the first game again,” Lofthouse said. “There’s definitely an element of that. We ran, the guys that obviously were at practice, we ran a lot even during the bye week, so I was really surprised to see our conditioning tonight in the position it was in.”

Still, the defense was able to shut down the visiting Cougars — at least for a half.

Capistrano Valley junior quarterback Trey Kukuk had two long touchdown passes in the second half and the visitors pulled away for a 30-19 victory.

Newport Harbor defensive back Andrew Chenier (45) intercepts a pass intended for Capo Valley's Jack Larkin (6) on Friday.
Newport Harbor defensive back Andrew Chenier intercepts a pass intended for Capo Valley’s Jack Larkin during Friday’s game.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor fell to 1-2. Capistrano Valley is 3-1, winner of three games in a row since a season-opening 35-34 overtime loss to Tustin.

The Sailors struck first on their second drive of the game. Irving, who rushed 21 times for 126 yards, scored a physical 16-yard touchdown, lowering his head near the end zone to run over a Cougars player and give his team the lead.

The score was tied 6-6 at halftime, Capistrano Valley getting its points on two field goals from Dylan Fingersh.

Newport Harbor was able to pressure Kukuk throughout the half, with Sailors defensive lineman Nathan Peters getting back-to-back sacks at one point. Newport Harbor’s Andrew Chenier also intercepted Kukuk’s first pass of the game.

Fingersh’s third field goal gave the visitors a 9-6 third-quarter lead, but the Sailors would respond on their first drive of the half. Senior quarterback Nick Kim found Josiah Lamarque on a 23-yard inside screen pass for the touchdown.

Newport Harbor defenders Grayson Simon and Alexe Pappageorge sack Capo Valley quarterback Trey Kukuk for a loss.
Newport Harbor defenders Grayson Simon and Alexe Pappageorge sack Capo Valley quarterback Trey Kukuk for a loss.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

But the Cougars struck back, in a hurry, on Kukuk’s 79-yard bomb to Mark Hopkins. Hopkins broke one tackle near midfield and was gone.

After the Sailors were forced to punt, Kukuk’s next pass also went for six points. He hit Owen Taylor with a 64-yard touchdown that gave Capistrano Valley a 23-12 lead with 9:17 remaining in the game.

“We started figuring out what they were doing on defense, trying to attack their man coverage schemes,” Kukuk said.

“We started pushing the ball downfield a little bit more, made a few big plays and that changed the momentum. We obviously hadn’t had the most success driving the ball downfield throughout the game, so to have those two plays was huge.”

Disaster struck on the Sailors’ next possession. A fumble was picked up by Capistrano Valley defensive tackle Wyatt Schultz, who rumbled 13 yards into the end zone. The Cougars were suddenly up 30-12.

Kim’s touchdown pass to Zach Zamora got the Sailors a bit closer, but Capistrano Valley got a pair of late interceptions from Hopkins and Dane Benedix to help seal the deal.

Newport Harbor defensive lineman Nathan Peters sacks Capo Valley quarterback Trey Kukuk during Friday's game.
Newport Harbor defensive lineman Nathan Peters sacks Capo Valley quarterback Trey Kukuk.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Penalties were an issue all night for the Sailors, who faced a first-and-30 situation at one point in the second half after two false starts and a holding penalty.

“All night long, it was a different guy every play that just created the self-inflicted wound that led to us not being successful,” Lofthouse said.

“When we were everybody moving in the right direction, going where we were supposed to go, we looked pretty darn good. There were some drives that you look at in the game and you say to yourself, ‘Wow, this is what we could really be.’ But we also have to not make critical errors like we did.”

Newport Harbor plays at Trabuco Hills on Sept. 17.

::

Nonleague

Capistrano Valley 30, Newport Harbor 19

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Capo Valley 3 – 3 – 10 – 14 — 30

Newport 6 – 0 – 6 – 7 — 19

FIRST QUARTER

NH – Irving 16 run (kick failed), 6:52.

CV – Fingersh 33 FG, 1:47.

SECOND QUARTER

CV – Fingersh 37 FG, 8:20.

THIRD QUARTER

CV – Fingersh 40 FG, 7:57.

NH – Lamarque 23 pass from Kim (kick blocked), 3:45.

CV – Hopkins 79 pass from Kukuk (Fingersh kick), 2:54.

FOURTH QUARTER

CV – Taylor 64 pass from Kukuk (Fingersh kick), 9:17.

CV – Schultz 13 fumble return (Fingersh kick), 8:55.

NH – Zamora 26 pass from Kim (Richardson kick), 7:14.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

CV – Kukuk, 13-54.

NH – Irving, 21-126, 1 TD.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

CV – Kukuk, 10-23-1, 279, 2 TDs.

NH – Kim, 18-28-2, 199, 2 TDs.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

CV – Taylor, 5-129, 1 TD.

NH – Lamarque, 7-74, 1 TD.

::

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