Great escape: Newport Harbor boys’ soccer hangs on to win CIF Division 2 title

Newport Harbor's Beck Brosnan (21) and Harutyun Kelyan (12) celebrate the opening goal against Foothill on Saturday.
Newport Harbor’s Beck Brosnan (21) and Harutyun Kelyan (12) celebrate the opening goal against Foothill on Saturday in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 final at Fred Kelly Stadium.
(James Carbone)

The Newport Harbor boys’ soccer team edged Foothill 4-3 on Saturday to win the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship at Fred Kelly Stadium.

Harutyun Kelyan, Eduardo Hopkin and Olivier Renard scored for Newport Harbor (20-5-1), which was also the beneficiary of an own goal in the first half.

Newport Harbor won its second section championship and its first outright CIF title. In its previous CIF finals appearance, Newport Harbor shared the Division 1-A crown with Corona Centennial after a scoreless draw in 1991.

Newport Harbor's Olivier Renard (23) heads the ball to the goal against Foothill on Saturday in the CIF Division 2 final.
(James Carbone)

“It was just an amazing buildup,” Renard said. “Freshman year, we came, we didn’t play varsity. Sophomore year, we understood what varsity was. Junior year, we went to the [Division 3] semifinals, we understand what CIF is, we understand the stakes.

“This year, we understand, even though we didn’t really think about it coming into preseason that we were going to make CIF, you just never know when things happen. There’s always a Cinderella story.”

Possession and chances favored Foothill leading up to that point, the back line of Hayden Baker, Jack Davey and Landon Baker being forced to play clean defensively as a number of balls were played into the Newport Harbor box in front of goalkeeper Jack Shepherd (two saves).

Newport Harbor goalkeeper Jack Shepherd (0) dives for a save against Foothill on Saturday in the CIF Division 2 final.
(James Carbone)

The Sailors led 3-0 at halftime, an explosive run of play that included a bicycle-kick finish by Hopkin for the third goal in the 20th minute. Hopkin, a senior transfer from Corona del Mar, then provided the service on Renard’s scoring header in front of the goal in the 49th minute.

Kelyan opened the scoring, running onto a throw-in by Jake Shubin toward the offensive goal line and finding the angle from the left wing in the 11th minute.

“It felt great, honestly,” Kelyan said. “It just motivated us in the beginning, pushing us forward, and that kind of kick-started it all.”

Newport Harbor coach Ignacio Cid congratulates his team after a goal by Eduardo Hopkin (24) against Foothill on Saturday.
(James Carbone)

In the 17th minute, Shubin served a cross in from the right corner flag, which Renard redirected on goal. Trent Samaha reacted to play the ball off the line, but the clearance went off the back of Foothill goalkeeper Joshua Picker (eight saves) and into the net.

Hopkin’s bicycle kick followed three minutes later, making the clock, as much as the score, an ally of the Sailors.

“I just saw Beck Brosnan heading the ball,” Hopkin said. “... I’m a striker, so I play with my back to the goal a lot, so I kind of knew where I was. I flicked it and hoped for the best, and the best happened.”

Foothill (16-6-8) fought back to strike fear into the hearts of the Sailors and their supporters, Lucas Regan providing goals 11 minutes apart before Brock Chapman streaked up a seam, his rising finish cutting the Knights’ deficit to one goal with nine minutes remaining.

Newport Harbor's Max Holmberg (17) looks to pass against Foothill on Saturday in the CIF Division 2 final.
(James Carbone)

Regan’s second goal came in the 66th minute, as he rolled a free kick under the player wall in front and inside the left post before second-half goalkeeper Rocco Villarreal (three saves) could get to the shot.

The offensive exploits of the Knights came after they failed to produce a goal in consecutive matches, advancing via penalty-kick shootouts against Redondo Union in the quarterfinals and versus Redlands East Valley in the semifinals.

For Newport Harbor, the late stages of the final largely mirrored its semifinals experience, when the Sailors were made to sweat out the closing moments against Los Angeles Loyola after jumping out to a 3-0 lead.

“We can’t stop putting our foot on the pedal,” Renard said. “Gladly, we were able to scrape that one out, even though we should have won 4-0.”

Newport Harbor boys' soccer players celebrate with the championship plaque after beating Foothill on Saturday.
Newport Harbor boys’ soccer players celebrate with the championship plaque after beating Foothill in the CIF Division 2 final.
(James Carbone)

Ignacio Cid, the sixth-year coach of the Sailors, hoisted a CIF championship trophy for the first time. He had been to a CIF final as a player at El Dorado in 1999, when the Golden Hawks lost to Santa Margarita 3-1 in the Division III final.

“Guys playing injured, guys limping on the field, I think that’s the thing I’m going to remember,” Cid said. “[Oswaldo Portillo] taking a foul that he knows he could get out of the way of, and he gets fouled, things like that. Those are all choices that a player can choose not to do. I think that’s the culture that we bring, and that’s why those guys don’t think twice about those decisions.”

Newport Harbor is the top seed in the CIF State Southern California Regional Division III playoffs. The Sailors defeated visiting Spring Valley Steele Canyon 1-0 on Tuesday to begin the tournament. Steele Canyon (11-4-8) was the Division 1 champion from the San Diego Section.

The regional semifinals are on Thursday, with Newport Harbor remaining at home to face Bakersfield Foothill (20-5-3).


12:34 p.m. Feb. 26, 2024: 1This story was updated with postgame reaction from coaches and players.