Two years after getting injured in Los Alamitos, Newport Harbor High senior boys’ lacrosse player Joe Fuller returned to the same field on Wednesday night.
Fuller said it was a bulging disc in his lower back, which he suffered in a Sunset League game as a sophomore and it kept him out of action until this year. But it was also something else.
“My sophomore year, I didn’t feel like I was a part of the team,” said Fuller, who decided not to play for the Sailors last year as a junior. “I felt neglected a lot. Coming back here and feeling instantly welcomed, that was a huge thing.”
Fuller said he returned to the team just a week before this season. They can be glad he did.
Fuller tied a season high with five goals as Newport Harbor beat Los Alamitos 10-8 to clinch the outright league title with one game to play in league.
Newport Harbor (12-5, 7-0 in league) won its third outright title in four years. Los Alamitos, which came in hoping to earn a share of the crown, fell to 9-8 overall and 5-2 in league.
Aiden Goltz added two goals for the Sailors, while Zach Quinonez, Rhett Farmer and Race Mooers also scored. Hutton Wooters led the Sailors with three ground balls, and it was an interception by defender Jack Whelan with less than a minute left that helped secure the victory.
“Taking [the league title] back to the school is an amazing feeling,” said Sailors sophomore goalkeeper Garrett Rovazzini, who made 11 saves.
Newport Harbor closes out league at home against last-place Marina on Friday at 7 p.m. before preparing for the U.S. Lacrosse Southern Section South Division playoffs, which begin next week.
Newport Harbor coach Mark Todd said before Wednesday’s game that he was worried about rust, as his team was playing its first game coming off spring break. Los Alamitos scored twice in the first two minutes, on goals by Trenton Jones and Lincoln Frazier, who ended up leading the Griffins with two goals each.
“I just tried to stay calm,” Todd said. “I just tried to let them work up a sweat and start feeling it again, but I was getting ready to call a timeout. I was getting nervous.”
Los Alamitos led 4-2 after the first quarter, but Newport Harbor turned the tide. Farmer and Goltz scored in the second as the Sailors earned a 4-4 tie by halftime.
They were up 5-4 in the third quarter when Fuller took the ball from Los Alamitos goalie Cullen Murray, who was attempting to clear it. Murray retaliated and earned concurrent unsportsmanlike conduct and slashing penalties, giving the Sailors a man-up situation for three minutes, though Murray did make sure to come and apologize to Fuller after the game.
The Sailors didn’t score during the three minutes, but Fuller scored twice soon after that as Newport grabbed a 7-4 lead. The Griffins did close the quarter strong, with goals from Hunter George and Frazier.
Newport Harbor, however, retook the momentum. The visitors started the fourth quarter with goals from Fuller, Goltz and Quinonez, taking a 10-6 lead that would be too much to overcome.
Senior Will Campbell was a leader on defense for the Sailors, who got two ground balls each from Farmer, Whelan and Hunter Rouch.
“Will Campbell just committed to Boston University, and I’m going to encourage him to play there,” Todd said. “I think he can play there. Los Alamitos’ attack is super-talented, super-athletic. They can shoot from all over the field, and our guys matched up to them.”