NEWPORT BEACH —Newport Harbor High football coach Jeff Brinkley decided to go for the win in overtime against San Clemente Friday night.
The big gamble did not pay off as the Sailors lost to the Tritons, 21-20, after failing to convert a two-point conversion. The Tars lost a more important No. 2, as in Buzzy Yokoyama, earlier in the nonleague game.
The junior that drove defenders back with his tenacious running style in his first three games as Newport Harbor's running back no longer could stand on his own two feet in the fourth game.
Yokoyama had to be lifted off the field, his legs dangling, before being placed on a table midway through the second quarter. His night against San Clemente was over as he rode away in the back of a cart, waving goodbye to teammates and the home fans.
Yokoyama might be lost for the season after he heard a pop in his right knee. If Yokoyama cannot return, the Sailors' hopes for a Sunset League title and CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff appearance are in jeopardy.
Yokoyama never saw the end of the thrilling game between Newport Harbor (3-1) and San Clemente (5-1). He spent it at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, where Aaron Rios, the father of Newport Harbor quarterback Austin Rios, said Yokoyama went to get an MRI on his right knee.
Newport Harbor, ranked No. 5 in the Pac-5 Division, missed Yokoyama's services in the second half. He gained 82 yards and one touchdown before the injury.
In the previous three starts, Yokoyama rushed for 670 yards and seven touchdowns. Two of those games saw Yokoyama gain 294 and 260 yards on the ground.
On his 16th carry, Yokoyama went down hard after a six-yard run. The home crowd went silent as the 5-foot-9, 198-pounder was on his back, grabbing his right leg inside the opponent's 20-yard line.
Whether Yokoyama will return to the Sailors' lineup this season, Brinkley said he did not know.
"I'm not a doctor," Brinkley said. "You're going to have to talk to somebody smarter than me.
"It's a tough loss."
It stung a little more after losing to the Tritons in overtime.
Newport Harbor and San Clemente last met 44 years ago, but they competed as if they were rivals. The hard-hitting contest went into overtime after San Clemente kicker Bret Miller missed a 23-yard game-winning field-goal try with five seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Brinkley and the Sailors celebrated as if they had just won the game.
Overtime was next and it started with the Tritons getting the ball on the opponent's 25-yard line.
Quarterback Travis Wilson, who gave the Sailors' defense fits all night, throwing for 199 yards on 22 of 33 passing and running for 111 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries, gave the ball to someone else to put the Tritons up in overtime.
The Tritons scored on the fifth play, a two-yard run by wide receiver Terrell Johnson, giving San Clemente a 21-14 lead.
Each team received a chance to begin on the opposition's 25. It was Newport Harbor's turn, and it was Yokoyama's backup, Drew Diller, who found the end zone for the second time on the night.
The senior scored on an eight-yard run, setting up Brinkley with a difficult call with San Clemente ahead, 21-20. Kick the extra-point and tie the game or go for the win?
The Sailors lined up on the three and went for a two-point conversion. They got closer to the end zone after Rios got San Clemente to jump offside, moving the ball in between the one and two.
Without Yokoyama, Newport Harbor handed it off to its No. 1 option in the backfield. Diller ran left and the Tritons swarmed his way, stuffing the play to hand Newport Harbor its first loss of the year.
"We had the play set up. We had them jump, and when you get on the one-and-a-half-yard line, we think we can make a yard and a half," Brinkley said. "They made the play when they had to.
"We had an opportunity to win the game right there."
San Clemente 21, Newport Harbor 20
SCORE BY PERIODS
San Clemente 7 – 0 – 7 – 0 – 7 — 21
Newport 7 – 7 – 0 – 0 – 6 — 20
NH – Yokoyama 7 run (Ochoa kick), 6:22.
SC – Elespuru 2 run (Miller kick), 0:59.
NH – Diller 3 run (Ochoa kick), 4:29.
SC – Wilson 4 run (Miller kick), 7:14.
SC – Johnson 2 run (Miller kick).
NH – Diller 8 run (run failed).
SC – Wilson, 17-111, 1 TD.
NH – Yokoyama, 16-82, 1 TD.
SC – Wilson, 22-33-1, 199.
NH – Rios, 13-16-0, 142.
SC – Graff, 7-94.
NH – Norton, 8-76.