Newport Harbor boys’ soccer advances to CIF Division 2 final with win over Loyola

Newport Harbor's Jake Shubin (16) kicks in a goal as Loyola's Will Hoshek looks on Friday.
Newport Harbor’s Jake Shubin (16) kicks in a goal as Loyola’s Will Hoshek looks on during a CIF Southern Section Division 2 boys’ soccer semifinal on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Newport Harbor’s second trip to a CIF Southern Section boys’ soccer title game was simple as can be — until it wasn’t.

A masterful defensive plan, which led to first-half goals five minutes apart, and a towering Olivier Renard header off a corner kick, that extended the advantage after the break, had the Sailors cruising to a Division 2 semifinal triumph Friday night.

But visiting Los Angeles Loyola took them to the finish, striking in the final minutes of regulation, again in stoppage, but left wanting for an equalizer. Goalkeeper Jack Shepard turned away two corner kicks at the death as the No. 3-seeded Sailors held on for a thrilling 3-2 triumph.

Newport Harbor's Beck Brosnan, far right, dribbles into the open field past Loyola's Peter Borges (12) on Friday.
Newport Harbor’s Beck Brosnan, far right, dribbles into the open field past Loyola’s Peter Borges (12) after goalie Kai Campos, far left, tries to get back into the goal before the shot on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I trusted in my boys,” said senior forward Beck Brosnan, whose glorious, fortuitous strike provided the two-goal halftime cushion. “But I’m not going to lie. I was getting a little nervy on the bench.”

It was a frightening span from the 78th minute, when second-seeded Loyola (19-5-3) ended the shutout bid, through the first minute of added time, when a brilliant sequence trimmed the deficit to a single goal, and deep into the 84th minute, when referee Steve Skille blew the whistle after back-to-back corners missed the mark.

Said Jake Shubin, who scored Newport Harbor’s first goal and fed Renard’s header: “Best feeling ever.”

Newport Harbor's Beck Brosnan (21) reacts to scoring the game's second goal against Loyola on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The reward comes next weekend, Friday or Saturday, in the championshipship clash with unranked Foothill (15-5-8), which advanced on penalties following a 0-0 draw at No. 8 Redlands East Valley. The Sailors are the home team but Davidson Field isn’t a certainty. The Southern Section could decide to place the game at Long Beach’s Veterans Stadium or El Modena High School in Orange.

It’s been a most unexpected run for Newport Harbor (18-5-1), which last year graduated 22 players from a group that lost by a goal against Sunset Conference rival Los Alamitos in the Division 3 semifinals and exited the Southern California Regional tournament in the first round.

“Last year at the final whistle, it was weird, just deflating,” Brosnan said. “And this year it’s completely different, it feels so good to be going to the final. The first one [for the program]. ... Going into the season, we didn’t think we were going to make CIF, and now we’re in the final.”

Newport Harbor's Eduardo Hopkin (24) knocks Loyola's Liam Magee off the ball on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It erases any remaining emotional debris from the Sailors’ late Surf League collapse, when they lost their grasp on the title with losses to Edison and Los Alamitos and needed an at-large berth into the Division 2 field. They’ve netted 11 goals in four playoff games after scoring just eight in Surf League play.

They did so this time through defense, permitting Loyola possession, compressing space in midfield through using layers of defenders — led by senior captain James Evans, the fulcrum around which it all revolved — and counterattacking with increasing command.

“We had a specific game plan to take away their [ability to penetrate through midfield], just the spacing you give and don’t give,” said Newport Harbor coach Ignacio Cid, in his sixth season in charge. “Take away their options so they’d try to hit the long ball.”

Newport Harbor's James Evans (6) battles for the ball against Loyola's Andrew Sullivan on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

It led to little, and Newport Harbor slowly took command, building into its attacking third and, finally, creating a clear chance on a long Shubin throw-in 17 minutes in.

The lead arrived in the 26th minute, from a free kick near midfield. Oswaldo Portillo played the ball into space ahead and to the right for Evans, who deftly picked out an open Shubin in front of the net for an easy finish into the open right side.

Five minutes later, Loyola got caught forward, Evans cleared a ball to the right flank, far from the net, and Brosnan beat onrushing goalkeeper Kai Campos to the ball. He chipped it toward the goal, not far enough to hit it, then took off. As he reached the box, the ball fell to his path, and he was precise.

Newport Harbor's Jack Csergei (5) keeps a dribble away from Loyola's Dashel Petranek (3) on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“I’m at the 40-yard line [from the football field], I look up, and the keeper’s in my face,” Brosnan said. “So the goal’s open, why not take a crack? I do and get lucky, falls to me in the box. Fell to my feet.

“That’s what you take in these games. If you can just play good defense, stay behind the ball, your chances will come to you.”

The Cubs were smoother to start the second half, carving through midfield and testing Shepard, a sophomore. Then the 6-foot-5 Renard leapt to nod home Shubin’s 50th-minute corner kick from the right.

Newport Harbor's Jake Shubin (16) steals the ball from Loyola's Charlie McMillan (20) on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“It’s our signature play,” Shubin said. “Ten, 12 times, me and Ollie have linked up from a throw-in or a corner. It’s a great connection.”

It was, for all intents, over — or should have been. Renard nearly scored again four minutes later, but Loyola started finding opportunities — a Jayden Davis header that should have been finished, a couple of corner kicks that sailed through the goalmouth, and a foray cleared by senior Harutyn Kelyan.

Liam Magee was behind the late Loyola charge, with a shot that forced Shepard to the ground for a save in the 77th minute. He fed Davis for a goal off a dynamic run moments later, then found Will Hoshek in front from the left byline 45 seconds into stoppage after MLS Next veteran Andrew Sullivan won a duel on the left flank.

Newport Harbor's Beck Brosnan (21), far left, gets into a foot race with Loyola goalie Kai Campos (77) and Peter Borges (12).
Newport Harbor’s Beck Brosnan (21), far left, gets into a foot race with Loyola goalie Kai Campos (77) and Peter Borges (12) on Friday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

That was a fright.

“Super fearful,” Cid termed it. “Super scared. You go, ‘OK, three minutes, they can’t score three goals in three minutes. We should be OK.’ And then you look, one. You look, two. And it’s, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

The Sailors survived the final three minutes, then sprinted into each others’ arms to celebrate at the whistle.

“It was pretty scary,” Shubin said, “but I knew we had it.”