Defense helps Newport Harbor football hang on for wild win at Capistrano Valley
The rain was pouring, and the Capistrano Valley football homecoming crowd was rocking.
Cougars senior quarterback Trey Kukuk kept making plays with his arm and his feet, giving the hosts a chance to rally for a nonleague win on Friday night.
Capo Valley got the ball back with just under two minutes and no timeouts, needing a field goal to tie and a touchdown to win.
Newport Harbor’s defense had other ideas.
The Sailors’ Robby Crowell and Leonard Ost combined for a quarterback sack as the clock hit zeroes, helping Newport Harbor survive for the 28-25 victory.
“We feel very comfortable right now with our defense on the field, especially in big moments,” Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse said. “The defense has been really strong all year. Even tonight, we won the game because the defense was once again able to close it out and give us an opportunity to win a very tough, ugly game.”
The Sailors (3-1) won despite throwing two interceptions, fumbling away a snap and committing 19 penalties for 167 yards. But they sacked Kukuk eight times, and senior cornerback Garrett Emerson had an interception of his own.
Junior linebacker Jacob Carlon had a key fourth-quarter fumble recovery for the Sailors. Trey Regitz had a pair of sacks for Newport Harbor, while Carlon, Tanner Muir and Crowell also had sacks.
“It was a big test today, and we pulled through and finished,” Carlon said. “That was one of the best quarterbacks we’ve seen this season, and we love those challenges. It puts us to the test, and that scoreboard shows what we did.
“It’s all about finishing. We preach finishing a lot throughout conditioning, weight lifting [and] all throughout practice. That’s what we did, we finished.”
Senior receiver Kashton Henjum had 10 catches for 214 yards and three touchdowns for the Sailors. Two of Henjum’s touchdown receptions from senior quarterback Colton Joseph came in the first half, helping stake Newport Harbor to a 21-3 halftime lead. Payton Irving also had a rushing score in the first half for the Sailors.
Henjum’s second touchdown catch was spectacular, as he dove in the back of the end zone to snag the 32-yard score.
“Per usual, Colton put it right on the money,” Henjum said. “I was just running down and I saw him give me a look. He put that thing out there. I’m not going to lie to you, I was really surprised. He hucked it, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s out there.’ It was right on the money, could not have been a better ball.”
As the rain picked up in the second half, Capistrano Valley started to rally. Kukuk was playing without top receiver Dane Benedix, who has yet to make his season debut due to a knee injury, but he spread the ball around to a variety of players.
Kukuk called his own number on a three-yard keeper for a touchdown midway through the third quarter. Two plays later, the Sailors fumbled the snap, and the Cougars’ Reily Walker recovered on the Capo Valley 14-yard line.
“Unfortunately, that fumble we had when it really started picking up with the storm kind of changed the momentum,” Lofthouse said. “We had some miscues all night offensively.”
Kukuk then found Jackson Sievers on a seven-yard touchdown. The conversion pass was good as well, pulling the hosts within 21-18 as the fourth quarter began.
Joseph hit Henjum over the middle on a 51-yard bomb, giving the Sailors a 28-18 lead with 6:26 left in the fourth quarter. But Capo Valley responded, as Kukuk delivered a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Isenhart.
Newport Harbor was unable to get a first down on two subsequent drives, but the visitors held the Cougars. Capo Valley was able to drive to its own 44-yard line in the closing seconds, but no further.
The Sailors’ defense came up big again on the final plays of the game, much to the chagrin of the crowd.
“I love the crowd, especially the away crowd,” Henjum said. “They had a big one last year at our home game, but they were bumping. It made it much more fun to come out with the ‘W.’”
Newport Harbor hosts Trabuco Hills (3-0) on Friday night in its last nonleague game. The Sailors have a bye the following week before opening up Sunset League play on Sept. 30 at home against Los Alamitos.
“Any time you can win ugly and play tight games, it prepares you for Sunset League competition,” Lofthouse said. “Whoever it is, it’s going to be quite the opponent. This is the loudest crowd we’ve had to play in, and some of that cheering was definitely disrupting our operations at times. When you can get that experience, it only helps you for league.”
Lofthouse said the Sailors were missing two starting defensive linemen, senior Alexe Pappageorge (neck) and junior Cam Denoon (elbow). They expect to get both back before league play begins, Lofthouse said, with Pappageorge having a good shot at returning next week.
Newport Harbor 28, Capistrano Valley 25
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 7 – 14 – 0 – 7 – 28
Capo Valley 3 – 0 – 15 – 7 – 25
CV – Fingersh 30 FG, 1:13.
NH – Henjum 15 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 0:01.
NH – Henjum 32 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 7:12.
NH – Irving 1 run (Richardson kick), 3:09.
CV – Kukuk 3 run (Fingersh kick), 5:14.
CV – Sievers 7 pass from Kukuk (Sievers pass from Kukuk), 4:41.
NH – Henjum 51 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 6:26.
NH – Isenhart 10 pass from Kukuk (Fingersh kick), 4:15.
NH – Irving, 17-87, 1 TD.
CV – Kukuk, 22-39, 1 TD.
NH – Joseph, 22-39-2, 318, 3 TDs.
CV – Kukuk, 24-48-1, 218, 2 TDs.
NH – Henjum, 10-214, 3 TDs.
CV – Campbell, 8-73.
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