Newport Harbor football rolls over Huntington Beach in league opener
There are no games off in the Sunset League, so the Newport Harbor High football team used its bye week to prepare for another rugged five-game league campaign.
The first league game of the season, Friday night at Davidson Field, carried the additional factors of being both the Sailors’ homecoming game and senior night.
Newport Harbor did not disappoint the home fans in any facet.
The Sailors scored touchdowns on their first six possessions in a 59-21 victory over Huntington Beach.
“We kind of opened up more and really played to our strengths,” said Newport Harbor senior receiver Josiah Lamarque, who had two touchdown catches. “We were airing the ball out a lot. We’re a really pass-heavy team, but Jagger Blauwkamp dominated the run game tonight. We’re just getting into a rhythm. It showed tonight — when we’re in a rhythm, things are going to be hard to stop.”
Sophomore quarterback Jaden O’Neal threw five touchdown passes in the first half, before junior Bode Stefano threw a pair of touchdowns in the second half for Newport Harbor (3-3). Senior receiver Jordan Anderson, an Oregon commit, had a standout game with nine catches for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
It was Blauwkamp who provided the opening points on the first play from scrimmage, running straight up the middle for a 62-yard touchdown.
“It’s always a great way to start the game,” Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse said with a smile. “The O-line was phenomenal tonight. That’s where it really starts, with the guys in the trenches, and they did a great job. That’s why we were so good.”
Huntington Beach (3-3) responded on its first drive. Freshman quarterback Brady Edmunds hit running back Tyler Young on a 55-yard touchdown pass, also up the middle of the field.
The first quarter would end with Newport Harbor up 28-14.
The Sailors then scored 17 unanswered points in the second quarter. Jon Richardson’s 39-yard field goal in the final minute gave the hosts a 45-14 halftime advantage.
Newport Harbor went on to score its most points in Lofthouse’s six-year tenure, the most since a 66-34 league win over Fountain Valley in 2016.
“It’s tough when we’re having difficulty stopping them and feeling like we’ve got to score every time too,” Huntington Beach coach Brett Brown said. “I thought we had the ability to, but we kind of hurt ourselves with some penalties and some missed opportunities. I felt like we kind of stopped ourselves a little bit on offense, and that’s a good football team. You can’t do that against them.”
Edmunds threw two touchdown passes, adding a 61-yard strike to Hunter Gray. But the Sailors’ Hudson Perez, Cade Fegel and Gabe Hendriks all came up with interceptions.
Perez also broke up and nearly intercepted another pass, which likely would have resulted in a pick-six. After the post-game huddle, Brown had a conversation with his freshman quarterback for a few moments.
“I just said I’m proud of him as a competitor,” Brown said. “We’ve just got to sometimes live to play another down and not force it. He was trying to get all 50 points back on one play, but he’ll bounce back from this. He’s an awesome kid and a good leader.”
Zain Bhatka threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Micah Riola for Huntington Beach, which plays Edison on Friday at Cap Sheue Field. The Chargers began league with a 21-7 win over Corona del Mar.
As for Newport Harbor, the Sailors hit the road to play three-time defending league champion Los Alamitos next Friday at Westminster High. The Griffins opened league play against Fountain Valley, earning a 49-10 rout.
“Our expectations for league are to compete every week,” Lamarque said. “We still believe we play in the toughest public school league in the nation. Los Al’s not going to be an easy one, then we get Edison and CdM, so those next three games are going to be a real brutal challenge. But we’re prepared for it, we’re just hopefully going to come out of every game healthy and with a win.”
Lofthouse said the school has turned in paperwork for the transfer of sophomore quarterback Cole Leinart from Mater Dei, and is waiting for the CIF Southern Section office to clear him. Leinart, the son of former Mater Dei, USC and professional football quarterback Matt Leinart, enrolled at Newport Harbor this week.
“Once he gets cleared by CIF, next week we expect him to start participating in practice,” Lofthouse said. “Like any practice, we’ll develop our football players and see what they can do best.”
Newport Harbor 59, Huntington Beach 21
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Huntington Beach 14 - 0 - 0 - 7 — 21
Newport Harbor 28 - 17 - 7 - 7 — 59
NH — Blauwkamp 62 run (Richardson kick), 11:49.
HB — Young 55 pass from Edmunds (Zavala kick), 10:46.
NH — Blauwkamp 16 pass from O’Neal (Richardson kick), 9:16.
NH — Lamarque 31 pass from O’Neal (Richardson kick), 4:23.
HB — Gray 61 pass from Edmunds (Zavala kick), 3:18.
NH — Anderson 9 pass from O’Neal (Richardson kick), 1:06.
NH — Lamarque 10 pass from O’Neal (Richardson kick), 8:54.
NH — Anderson 18 pass from O’Neal (Richardson kick), 6:08.
NH — Richardson 39 FG, 0:19.
NH — Anderson 50 pass from Stefano (Richardson kick), 6:22.
NH — Showalter 5 pass from Stefano (Richardson kick), 9:20.
HB — Riola 17 pass from Bhakta (Zavala kick), 2:00.
HB — Young, 12-53.
NH — Blauwkamp, 8-102.
HB — Edmunds, 9-19-3, 192, 2 TDs; Bhakta, 4-5-0, 61, 1 TD.
NH — O’Neal, 22-30-0, 207, 5 TDs; Stefano, 7-8-0, 85, 2 TDs.
HB — Young, 5-92, 1 TD; Gray, 2-82, 1 TD.
NH — Anderson, 9-125, 3 TDs; Lamarque, 9-86, 2 TDs.
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