NEWPORT BEACH — The Newport Harbor High water polo program is known for its press defense.
In the first three matches of the season, though, scoreboard operators have been the ones hard-pressed to keep up with the Sailors.
The trend continued Saturday night, as the Newport boys blasted Coronado, 19-8, in a home nonleague match. It was a dominant effort from the start, when the Sailors scored four goals in the first four minutes, to the finish, when sophomore Trent Hayes scored with less than a second left in the match.
Newport Harbor has scored 48 goals in its first three games.
"We countered pretty hard, and I think we did decent on defense," said senior utility player Andrew Duhoux, who was just that with three goals, four assists and four steals. "We could have held them to a few less goals, but other than that, I really think we're starting to come together on offense and as a team. Without our coach here, we're trying to pull together even more."
That coach is Jason Lynch, who is in the midst of a two-week suspension as it was recently discovered the Sailors used an academically ineligible player last fall. The team had to forfeit 25 victories, all but one of its wins from 2009.
The interim head man is Corey Delahunt, an assistant who played for Lynch at Costa Mesa High. He stressed a familiar theme Saturday night as well, before the Sailors hosted their San Diego opponents to what has become the annual tradition of a postmatch dinner.
"It's the most fun thing to do in water polo, shoot the ball and score goals," Delahunt said. "But our primary focus is getting kids to play some solid defense for four quarters. That's always our goal here at Newport, and we try to keep our [opponent] to five or six goals, maximum. Tonight we weren't able to do that, but we were fortunate to get all those counterattacks and score all those goals. It was fun."
Junior Farrel South scored six times for the Sailors, showing off his rocket shot several times, including one goal from near midpool and another hard backhander from set. South said he has thrown it sidearmed since he was a little kid, compared to the traditional motion of throwing overhand.
It's one of the strongest shots in high school, but South and his teammates are more interested in becoming one of the strongest teams in high school.
"We're a pretty young team," South said. "We lost 14 seniors last year and now we have five, and we're building as a group. It's a pretty strong unit."
The Sailors probably would have given up less goals Saturday if they weren't called for 15 exclusions; Coronado went seven for 15 on the man-advantage but could score just one "natural" goal. Newport Harbor was six of seven on its own man-advantage.
"The kids need to adjust to the referee," Delahunt said. "The referees aren't going to adjust to them."
Junior Ryan Fowler had three goals and four assists for the Sailors, ranked No. 3 in the CIF Southern Section Division I poll. Dan Stevens, Andrew Silvers and Curtis Fink had two goals each, and senior goalie Chris Whitelegge made 10 saves before giving way to junior Koby Yokota (two saves) in the fourth quarter.
The Sailors led by as many as 12 goals. Senior Garrett Smerdon led Coronado (0-1), which has been a CIF San Diego Section Division II finalist the past two years, with three goals.
Lynch is eligible to return on Friday, when Newport will be in the midst of the three-day South Coast Tournament.
Duhoux, a team captain along with Whitelegge, said he'll be ready to see Lynch, in his 10th year at Newport, back on the pool deck.
"It'll be great timing," Duhoux said of having Lynch come back during the South Coast Tournament. "We do well without him here, but we do even better with him here."
Newport Harbor 19, Coronado 8
SCORE BY QUARTERS"
Coronado 1 1 2 4 - 8 Newport Harbor 4 6 5 4 - 19
C – Smerdon 3, Grall 2, Eyer 1, Geer 1. Saves – Hummeldorf 7.
NH – South 6, Duhoux 3, Stevens 2, Silvers 2, Fink 2, Fowler 2, Lee 1, Hayes 1. Saves – Whitelegge 10, Yokota 2.