MANHATTAN BEACH — A handful of high school students in Speedos ran onto the football field before Newport Harbor High switched sides.
It was a bad sign for the Sailors before the start of the second quarter at Mira Costa. The streakers did not get in the way of Newport Harbor. An injury to another starter did Friday night.
On the first play in the second quarter, the Sailors lost the ball and then quarterback Austin Rios to a head injury.
The senior is the latest Sailor to suffer an injury and the setbacks have devastated Newport Harbor. The Sailors entered their final nonleague game without the services of running back Buzzy Yokoyama, fullback Ryan Andrews and right tackle Dillon Gillette.
When they lost their quarterback to a concussion, the Sailors struggled on offense and lost to Mira Costa, 17-6. They avoided the shutout, which would have been the Sailors’ first in three years.
Newport Harbor can thank wide receiver Parker Norton for the touchdown. On fourth-and-goal, the senior dived for a six-yard pass in the end zone with 93 seconds left to play.
Norton led Newport Harbor with 12 catches for 139 yards and with 38 yards rushing on three carries. The effort was not enough as the Sailors dropped their second straight game.
The string of injuries during the skid has taken a toll on Newport Harbor (3-2), ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division poll.
“Sometimes it’s not easy for young guys to regroup when a couple of their leaders have gone down,” Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley said.
“We’ve got to get some guys healthy come next week.”
Newport Harbor opens Sunset League play next week at home against Huntington Beach. Brinkley said he is unsure whether Rios, Gillette (concussion) and Andrews (shoulder) will return in time for the league opener.
Yokoyama is definitely out with a dislocated right kneecap, and Brinkley said he does not expect the junior to come back any time soon. Newport Harbor misses Yokoyama in the backfield.
Yokoyama gave the Sailors one of the best ground attacks in Orange County, rushing for 752 yards and eight touchdowns in four games, before going down last week against San Clemente.
Mira Costa (2-3), the Western Division champion last year, held Newport Harbor to a season-low 29 yards rushing to earn its first victory against a Southern Section program this season.
Yokoyama’s backup, Drew Diller, began the game strong until the Mustangs stuffed the senior behind the line of scrimmage 10 times.
Mira Costa held Diller to four yards on 20 attempts.
Hurting Diller at times was the exchange from the backup quarterback, Cole Blower.
The handoff proved to be an issue before the defense swarmed Diller.
The Mustangs recovered two of the bad exchanges resulting in fumbles, one on the Sailors’ one.
Mira Costa quickly turned that mistake into a touchdown on a quarterback sneak by Dennis Faloone, giving the Mustangs a 10-0 lead late in the third quarter.
Blower was forced into action after defensive back Geoff La Pointe intercepted a Rios pass near Mira Costa’s five-yard line 10 seconds into the second quarter.
Rios tried to make the tackle on La Pointe near the Mustangs’ sideline and Brinkley said he injured his head on the play. Rios left the game and never returned.
Brinkley said Rios threw up on the sideline and was woozy. It appeared Rios was attempting a comeback late in the first half as he ran up and down the track around the field.
Brinkley was not going to let him back in. The offense struggled when Rios played, turning the ball over twice in Mira Costa’s territory, once on downs and on an interception.
“We just never got anything going offensively,” Brinkley said. “Any time you’re moving [players around] like that, it’s hard to get in any kind of rhythm. We never did. We didn’t block them up front. It didn’t really matter who was running the ball.
“If you don’t block somebody up front, you’re not going to get very many yards.”
Mira Costa 17, Newport Harbor 6
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 0 – 0 – 0 – 6 — 6
Mira Costa 0 – 3 – 7 – 7 — 17
MC – Sofen 35 FG, 6:16.
MC – Faloone 1 run (Sofen kick), 2:27.
MC – Morris 8 run (Sofen kick), 10:26.
NH – Norton 6 pass from Blower (kick blocked), 1:33.
NH – Norton, 3-38.
MC – Morris, 20-84, 1 TD.
NH – Blower, 9-20-0, 102, 1 TD.
MC – Faloone, 5-12-1, 42.
NH – Norton, 12-139, 1 TD.
MC – Morris, 12-20.