NEWPORT BEACH — The scoreboard went out before the start of the second half of Newport Harbor High's season opener.
For the Sailors' sake, they did not really have to put up numbers on their scoreboard again.
The defense and special teams bailed Newport Harbor out of trouble on numerous occasions on the football field Thursday night. Special teams recorded a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Sailors enough points to beat Trabuco Hills.
Newport Harbor added a touchdown late as it won, 17-6, making it eight straight years the Sailors have kicked off the season with a victory. No team has been able to post double-digit points on Newport Harbor in the last eight openers.
The defense intercepted two passes and special teams blocked a field-goal attempt that gave the Sailors the lead for good. The biggest player on the field, Stanford-bound senior JB Salem, created the scoring opportunity for the Sailors, ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division poll.
The 6-foot-4, 258-pound Salem penetrated through the middle of the line and batted down Oleg Parent's 36-yard field-goal try. Asa Lohr picked up the live ball on the 27 and raced 73 yards for a touchdown, giving the Sailors a 7-3 lead with 7:41 left before halftime.
Special teams have always been a strength of Coach Jeff Brinkley-coached teams, but he said he was not impressed with the overall performance. One player he praised was running back Buzzy Yokoyama.
The junior's debut at running back was solid. He ran for 116 yards on 19 carries. He carried the load for Newport Harbor, as no other running back ran the ball for Newport Harbor until fullback Ryan Andrews did late in the third quarter.
"He did what we needed from him," Brinkley said of Yokoyama, who took over as the starting tailback after Cedric Whitaker did not return to the Sailors after rushing for 1,003 yards and totaling 12 touchdowns last season.
Yokoyama said he felt the nerves at the start.
"Once those nerves went away, I felt like it was just … my game," Yokoyama said.
The game seemed to favor Trabuco Hills (1-1) in the first half.
The field position belonged to the Mustangs. Three times in the first 24 minutes, they started on the Sailors' 38 or better.
Mistakes cost Trabuco Hills the chance to jump on Newport Harbor.
The Sailors looked destined to be down by six points midway through the second quarter. Parent tried to convert his second field-goal attempt in a four-minute span until Salem got in the way.
Newport Harbor needed its special teams to score because the offense struggled.
During a 12-minute stretch between the first and second quarters, the Sailors moved the chains only once.
The defense stopped Trabuco Hills from cutting the deficit or going ahead with 3:13 left before halftime. The Mustangs inserted a new quarterback, Ryan Ochoa, with the offense on Newport Harbor's 44.
On Ochoa's first play, he tried to throw a pass over the head of safety Titus Hasson. The transfer from Nevada leaped, showing off his athleticism to intercept the pass inside the 30-yard line.
The Sailors' offense gave it right back to Trabuco Hills.
The exchange between quarterback Austin Rios and Yokoyama was a bad one in the backfield and linebacker Nicholas Cody pounced on the loose ball. Trabuco Hills began on the Sailors' 32 with 2:16 left in the first half.
The Mustangs moved to the 13. Faced with a third-and-one situation, defensive back Kellon Truxton stuffed running back Mitchell Simonsen for a two-yard loss, forcing Trabuco Hills to bring out Parent.
Parent nailed the 32-yard field goal as Trabuco trailed Newport Harbor, 7-6, with 33 seconds remaining.
The clock showed enough of time for the Sailors to increase their lead. Yokoyama returned the ensuing kickoff down the Newport Harbor sideline for 75 yards, leaving the offense on the opponent's 20-yard line.
Rios hit wide receiver Parker Norton for a quick 10-yard pass to record a first down, the offense's first since midway through the opening quarter. The Sailors settled for a 27-yard field goal by Christian Ochoa as time expired to go ahead, 10-6, at halftime.
The third quarter featured zero points for both sides. Newport Harbor scored its first touchdown of the season, thanks to its defense.
Defensive end Steve Michaelsen couldn't sack quarterback Jonathan Newsom, but he tipped his pass, allowing defensive tackle Lucas Buckley to intercept it on the Mustangs' 12.
Three plays later, Rios connected with Norton on a six-yard touchdown pass with 4:47 left to play.
"We had a couple of shots to throw the ball deep and he was just a little bit long on three throws that we had chances for scores," Brinkley said of Rios, who was 13 of 21 passing for 96 yards. "He'll get in sync and get better like all of us are going to. They had a game under their belt."