LONG BEACH — Newport Harbor High's Jeff Brinkley tried to do something no other coach has been able to do in 32 years against a Los Alamitos team led by John Barnes.
That's beat Barnes for a fourth straight year in Sunset League play.
The Sailors fell very short of the feat Thursday night, as they lost to the Griffins, 30-0, in a vital league showdown at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
The contest played out drastically differently to the previous four meetings between these two programs. A total of 10 points decided those games, with the Sailors taking the last three.
The latest one was over at halftime.
Barnes, who has won more games than any coach in Orange County, has the Griffins (5-2, 2-0 in league) in the hunt for their second league crown in three years, while Brinkley has to go back to the drawing board with Newport Harbor (4-3, 1-1).
"Everything that they've done for years, that they're good at, they couldn't do it tonight," said Barnes, adding that the league is no longer wide open.
The Griffins are the favorites in Barnes' eyes.
The Griffins contained the Sailors' usual strong ground game and forced their quarterback, who came back from a concussion, to beat them. The defense delivered, making things difficult for quarterback Austin Rios as he completed just seven of 17 passes for 37 yards.
Los Alamitos gave Barnes a gift two days before he turned 62. The Griffins became the second team in four years to shut out the Sailors in league.
League does not get any easier for the Sailors. They hit the road for the second straight week and face defending league champion Edison (4-2, 1-0), a team it last defeated 31 years ago.
Brinkley was not looking ahead to the next game. Thursday's effort was disappointing.
"We couldn't do much on either side of the ball," said Brinkley, whose team managed just two first downs in the first half and finished with only 79 yards passing and 92 yards rushing. "We didn't stop them and we didn't move the ball. That's a bad recipe for disaster.
"Obviously, [the game] was more important to them tonight than it was to us."
The game marked the return of Los Alamitos standout running back Nick Richardson. He missed the past three games with a toe injury.
Richardson was not the tailback who hurt Newport Harbor the most on the field. A 5-foot-4 junior named Cody Paul ran all over the Sailors, amassing a career-best 171 yards on 24 carries.
Richardson admitted he was the decoy. He only touched the ball eight times, six on rushes for 24 yards and twice on receptions for 14 yards, well below his numbers during the first three games of the season in which he recorded 581 yards on the ground.
The big gainers of 43, 35 and 32 yards in the first half the Griffins produced did not involve Richardson. Each of the long plays set up scores, allowing Los Alamitos to take a 24-0 lead into halftime.
Richardson found the end zone, which he was unable to do in last year's 23-20 loss at Newport Harbor. He scored on a three-yard run late in the opening quarter.
The Sailors paid extra attention to Richardson, who ran for 208 yards on 33 carries the last time he faced Newport Harbor. The bulk of the carries this year went to Paul as the Griffins at times lined up Richardson wide.
Paul took advantage of the defense focusing on Richardson and added an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. In the first half, he recorded 121 yards on 16 carries. His yards doubled that of the Sailors' offensive total after two quarters.
Los Alamitos 30, Newport Harbor 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
Los Al 14 – 10 – 0 – 6 — 30
LA – Roberts 10 pass from Lagarde (Boyer kick), 6:56.
LA – Richardson 3 run (Boyer kick), 2:32.
LA – Boyer FG 24, 6:30.
LA – Roberts 14 pass from Lagarde (Boyer kick), 0:32.
LA – Paul 11 run (kick blocked), 10:42.
NH – Diller, 14-72.
LA – Paul, 24-171, 1 TD.
NH – Rios, 7-17-0, 37.
LA – Lagarde, 7-8-1, 102, 2 TDs.
NH – Diller, 3-23.
LA – Roberts, 3-44, 2 TDs.