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Newport Harbor football at halfway point in bid for back-to-back CIF titles

Newport Harbor's Josiah Lamarque (8), seen against Edison on Oct. 7, had 199 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Newport Harbor’s Josiah Lamarque (8), seen against Edison on Oct. 7, had 199 receiving yards and three touchdowns on Friday against Newbury Park.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor found itself in a hole early in its CIF Southern Section Division 4 football quarterfinal Friday night at Newbury Park, two touchdowns behind with nothing to suggest that the Panthers’ freshman sensation taking snaps could be stopped.

Brady Smigiel was as good as advertised, hitting on 13 of his first 17 throws for 243 yards and three scores, and for a good while, it appeared he could do as he pleased. Then he was felled on a roughing-the-passer foul, played out the drive — tossing another touchdown pass waved off by a holding penalty — then went to the sideline and began vomiting.

He was whisked to a nearby hospital with an apparent concussion, and the game, for all intents, was over. Newport Harbor, in a quest for back-to-back section titles, took command of the proceedings, scoring 42 successive points en route to a 49-28 triumph.

The Sailors advanced to next week’s Division 4 semifinals against Cypress (12-0), a last-minute, 29-28 winner over Long Beach Millikan.

Colton Joseph overcame a slow start to throw for 334 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Josiah Lamarque, and the Sailors’ versatility was more than Newbury Park (9-3) could handle without its freshman stud. His departure was the game-changer.

“It’s wild,” Sailors head coach Peter Lofthouse said. “Games can have swings, and it just shows how unique high school football is, because one player can make that much of a difference in a game. And, early, [Smigiel] was on fire. Very impressive. Him and Malachi [Nelson, from Los Alamitos] are probably the two best quarterbacks we’ve seen all year. I mean, he’s legit.”

The 6-foot-5 Smigiel, son of Panthers head coach Joe Smigiel, had been tabbed “the next big thing” before he’d stepped onto a high school field. He made visits to USC and Oregon State as an eighth-grader, is being recruited by Michigan, Florida, Florida State, Utah and Colorado, and just received an offer from Arizona, where his father was a lineman 30 years ago.

He lived up to the hype, throwing for 258 yards in about a quarter and a half as Newbury Park twice took two-touchdown leads, and once he was gone, the Panthers had little to offer. They gained just 110 yards from that point, the vast majority on two 40-yard Charlie Simmons runs out of the wildcat formation and added to its total only near the end, on a 75-yard Shane Rosenthal kickoff return.

“It changed a lot for us [when Smigiel left], and I think that gave us a little spark of momentum,” said Lamarque, who caught seven passes for 199 yards, the best a slant he turned into a 69-yard score for a 35-21 advantage on the second play from scrimmage in the second half. “Because we knew, ‘OK, we’ve got this.’ We just have to hold our own on defense, and offense can keep giving us momentum to close out the game.”

That’s how it transpired, and so the Sailors, who last year captured the Division 6 title, are just two wins from a Division 4 crown.

“One of the things we talked about before the playoffs started was giving ourselves an opportunity to be the first Newport Harbor football team to go back-to-back with CIF titles,” Lofthouse said. “So every time we get a win, we’re one step closer to achieving that goal.”

Beat Cypress, in a game almost certainly set for Western High in Anaheim, and Cathedral (10-2) or Downey (10-2) would await in the title game.

Smigiel completed four of five passes for 65 of the opening drive’s 75 yards to give Newbury Park an edge just 1:48 into the game with a 30-yard throw to Rosenthal. He then made it 14-0 the next time he had the ball, hitting on five of six throws for 88 yards on a 97-yard march that closed with a 25-yard completion to Casey Knieriem.

Newport Harbor (8-4) halved the deficit on a 6-yard run by quarterback Colton Joseph in the last minute of the opening quarter, and Smigiel was at it again, throwing for all 88 yards on the next drive, capping it with a 17-yard touchdown to Simmons for a 21-7 advantage.

Payton Irving, the Sailors’ chief weapon through most of the first half, made it a one-touchdown game with a 6-yard run. He gained 51 of his game-best 148 yards on Newport Harbor’s first second-quarter possession.

Then Smigiel went down. Five plays later, the young quarterback was intercepted by Tony Glynn, and that was that.

Irving added another touchdown to tie the score. Tanner Muir recovered a bad snap with 15 seconds to go in the half, and Joseph hit Lamarque for a 29-yard score just two seconds before the break and again to start the second half.

Newbury Park twice reached the red zone without scoring in the second half. The Sailors added points on a Joseph pass to Kashton Henjum in the third quarter and another to Lamarque, covering 56 yards, in the fourth.

The game, already chippy, turned ugly after Smigiel’s departure. Newbury Park was understandably unhappy with how its quarterback was hurt, and there was chirping and repeated major penalties — including several personal foul and unsportsmanlike-conduct calls — from that point. Panthers fans tried to prevent Newport Harbor from reaching its locker room at halftime, Lofthouse said, and the teams eschewed postgame handshakes, the better to avoid trouble, as Joe Smigiel mockingly congratulated the Sailors at the finish.

Joseph, who missed on eight of 12 passes before Smigiel’s exit, came alive late in the second quarter and finished 14 of 26 with his best yardage total of the season.

Newport Harbor 49, Newbury Park 28

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Newport Harbor 7 - 21 - 14 - 7 — 49

Newbury Park 14 - 7 - 0 - 7 — 28

FIRST QUARTER

NP — Rosenthal 30 pass from Smigiel (Mussmacher kick), 10:12.

NP — Knieriem 25 pass from Smigiel (Mussmacher kick), 5:23.

NH — Joseph 6 run (Richardson kick), 0:43.

SECOND QUARTER

NP — Simmons 17 pass from Smigiel (Mussmacher kick), 11:42.

NH — Irving 6 run (Richardson kick), 7:21.

NH — Irving 2 run (Richardson kick), 2:37.

NH — Lamarque 29 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 0:02.

THIRD QUARTER

NH — Lamarque 69 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 10:59.

NH — Henjum 26 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 0:46.

FOURTH QUARTER

NH — Lamarque 56 pass from Joseph (Richardson kick), 4:57.

NP — Rosenthal 75 kickoff return (Mussmacher kick), 4:45.

INDIVIDUAL RUSHING

NH — Irving, 19-148, 2 TDs.

NP — Simmons, 9-89.

INDIVIDUAL PASSING

NH — Joseph, 14-26-0, 334, 4 TDs.

NP — Smigiel, 16-23-1, 258, 3 TDs.

INDIVIDUAL RECEIVING

NH — Lamarque, 7-199, 3 TDs.

NP — Rosenthal, 8-107, 1 TD.

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