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Newport Harbor football outlasts Dominguez to reach CIF Division 6 title game

After a catch, Kashton Henjum (6) sprints away from Ormanie Arnold into the end zone for a touchdown.
After a catch, Newport Harbor’s Kashton Henjum sprints away from Ormanie Arnold into the end zone for a touchdown during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs against Compton Dominguez on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Compton Dominguez High football team couldn’t keep Newport Harbor sophomore Josiah Lamarque out of the end zone during Friday night’s CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoff semifinal game.

Lamarque’s teammates actually did that.

A week after finding the end zone five times in a quarterfinal win at Santa Barbara, he had a first-half kickoff return and punt return for a touchdown both called back due to Newport Harbor penalties.

Earlier in the year, coach Peter Lofthouse said the Sailors would have got down on themselves and folded. What he has seen during this team’s postseason run has been different.

“The players have started to learn the process of how to win and to overcome adversity,” he said.

Newport Harbor did more than stay in it. The Sailors found a way to make plays at the end against a good football team.

Kashton Henjum caught the go-ahead touchdown pass from AJ Guitron-Moore in the fourth quarter, and a late defensive stand helped the Sailors earn a 20-19 victory Friday night at Davidson Field.

Newport Harbor linebacker Conner Chenier (7) stops running back Taylor Woods for a loss during Friday's game.
Newport Harbor linebacker Conner Chenier (7) stops running back Taylor Woods for a loss.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

No. 3-seeded Newport Harbor (6-7) has made a CIF final for the first time since 2013. The Sailors will play on the road against No. 4-seeded Temecula Valley in the Division 6 title game Saturday, looking for their first CIF title since 2005.

Temecula Valley upset top-seeded Camarillo in overtime, 37-31, in the other Division 6 semifinal.

Few may have expected the Sailors to be in this position. They weren’t even sure they would make the postseason.

“It’s a really cool thing,” Lofthouse said. “It really is. We heard a lot of people say we didn’t belong in the playoffs at 3-7, and now we’ve put together a three-game stretch and really started playing some of our best football. We feel like we’re peaking at the right time. Now we get the opportunity to go play for a CIF title.”

The Sailors rallied from a two-touchdown deficit in the first half against No. 2-seeded Dominguez (10-3). Dominguez senior left-handed quarterback Jordan Ford made plays with his arm and his feet.

He had a 21-yard touchdown pass to Cieonta Davis on the Dons’ first possession, then scored on a six-yard keeper to end the visitors’ second possession. The extra-point attempt was blocked, so Dominguez had to settle for a 13-0 lead.

Running back Hayden Farley runs through a hole during Friday's game against Dominguez.
Running back Hayden Farley runs through a hole during Friday’s game against Dominguez.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Sailors, who missed a field goal on their opening drive, wouldn’t get any points until midway through the second quarter.

That was when Guitron-Moore found Henjum on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Henjum outmuscled the defensive back for the catch, then broke his tackle and strolled into the end zone for the score.

After Dominguez went three-and-out, Sailors running back Henry Slater scored on a six-yard carry just before the half, giving Newport Harbor a 14-13 advantage at the intermission.

The Dons answered in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run by Cyrus Finnie, though the conversion run failed so their lead was just 19-14.

The Sailors came right back on their next drive, with Guitron-Moore placing a perfectly placed ball to Henjum down the right sideline on a 20-yard score.

“We’ve practiced that play probably 1,000 times,” Guitron-Moore said. “I just trust him to catch that.”

Newport Harbor’s conversion pass was broken up, so the Sailors held a narrow 20-19 lead. And Dominguez looked to be putting together a game-winning drive late.

Newport Harbor running back Henry Slater fights off a tackle by Ormanie Arnold for a touchdown.
Newport Harbor running back Henry Slater fights off a tackle by Ormanie Arnold for a touchdown.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Ford’s 11-yard pass to Damonte Bias gave the Dons a first down at the Sailors’ 30-yard line with about three minutes left. But that was as close as Dominguez would get.

After an incomplete pass, Nathan Peters and Connor Chenier combined to sack Ford for an eight-yard loss. On third-and-18, Ford found Bilal Musaddiq on a quick screen pass, but that was quickly gobbled up by the Sailors’ Carson De Avila for just a three-yard gain.

Ford’s next pass downfield was incomplete, and the Sailors took over on downs. With Dominguez out of timeouts, they could go in victory formation.

“Our defense has been very strong all year for us, and they’ve been very consistent,” Lofthouse said. “Go figure. At the biggest moments and the brightest lights, when we needed our defense, they showed up and finished this off. It’s a testament to what they’ve been doing all year.”

Newport Harbor's Kashton Henjum (6) attempts a catch in the end zone as Dominguez is called for pass interference.
Newport Harbor’s Kashton Henjum attempts a catch in the end zone as Mark Estelle of Compton Dominguez breaks up the pass and is called for pass interference.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Newport Harbor offensive line of left tackle Peters, left guard Emilio Marquez, center Carter Gomez, right guard Makai Sagiao and right tackle Grayson Simon did not allow Guitron-Moore to be sacked in the game.

Perhaps symbolizing the Sailors’ underdog status, Guitron-Moore was a third-string quarterback earlier in the year and did not start until the Fountain Valley win on Oct. 8. Now, he’s a game away from leading the Sailors to a CIF title in his senior year.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “This is great. I can’t really describe how I feel. We’ve been through a lot of adversity, and we just kept fighting.”

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CIF Southern Section Division 6 Playoffs

Semifinal

Newport Harbor 20, Dominguez 19

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Dominguez 7 – 6 – 0 – 6 — 19

Newport 0 – 14 – 0 – 6 — 20

FIRST QUARTER

D – Davis 21 pass from Ford (Gomez kick), 2:26.

SECOND QUARTER

D – Ford 6 run (kick blocked), 11:57.

NH – Henjum 35 pass from Guitron-Moore (Richardson kick), 5:46.

NH – Slater 6 run (Richardson kick), 1:20.

FOURTH QUARTER

D – Finnie 2 run (run failed), 8:28.

NH – Henjum 21 pass from Guitron-Moore (pass failed), 5:34.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

D – Ford, 20-62, 1 TD.

NH – Farley, 8-55.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

D – Ford, 13-27-0, 170, 1 TD.

NH – Guitron-Moore, 11-20-0, 133, 2 TDs.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

D – Arnold, 4-85.

NH – Henjum, 4-73, 2 TDs.

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