HUNTINGTON BEACH — There were no coin-flips, no blind draw, no excruciating at-large scenarios to ponder over a couple difficult, if not sleepless nights.
This time, the Newport Harbor High football team left nothing to random chance, deciding matters on the field in dominating fashion with a 35-0 postseason-clinching, Sunset League win over host Fountain Valley at Huntington Beach High.
Junior tailback Buzzy Yokoyama ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns to help the Sailors (6-4, 3-2 in league) wrap up third place and the league's final guaranteed berth in the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs, for which pairings will be announced Sunday.
"I'm really happy for the players, especially the seniors, who were flipped out two years ago," Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley said after the Sailors' second straight shutout put them into the playoffs for the 18th time in the last 22 seasons, all under Brinkley's reign. "We're not flipping this year, which is nice, because our track record in those things isn't very good."
After finishing in a five-way tie for first place in 2008, Newport Harbor sat out the playoffs after a random draw rendered them one of two odd teams out.
Last year, after winning on the final week of the regular season, they were wedged into a three-way tie for second place. A postgame coin-flip session was held and, once again, they were denied an automatic berth, though they were granted an at-large entry about 38 hours later.
Brinkley said it is likely the Sailors will be on the road against a league champion in the first round of the playoffs. But any apprehension over such an underdog pairing was not enough to wipe a satisfied grin off his face following Friday's suspenseless triumph.
What's more, Yokoyama, who was sidelined for much of league with a dislocated kneecap, appeared to have regained the explosive form that he displayed during the Tars' 3-0 start.
"He's now back to full strength," Brinkley said of the junior darter, who had scoring runs of 22, 14 and two yards and added pickups of 46, 31 and 17 yards. Yokoyama, who had a potential fourth touchdown nullified by a holding penalty, was about all the offense the visitors needed.
Newport Harbor did score twice through the air — with senior Austin Rios connecting with fullback Ryan Andrews for an 11-yard tally and junior backup Cole Blower tossing to Drew Diller for an eight-yard capping touchdown early in the fourth quarter. But the Sailors netted just 55 of their 358 total yards via the pass.
Defense sparkled, with linebackers Blair Luchs, Andrews and Ethan Cochran, ends Asi Mutuvai and Steve Michaelsen, tackles JB Salem and Johnny Heerzog, cornerbacks Parker Norton and Asa Lohr, as well as safeties Kellon Truxton and Titus Hasson, all having a significant part of blanking the Barons (3-6-1, 1-4).
"Defense played great and we ran the ball well," Brinkley said.
Sophomore Landon Gyulay blocked two punts on consecutive Fountain Valley possessions, the second one, recovered by Bradley Beaudette at the Fountain Valley 31-yard line, setting up a two-play scoring drive that put the Sailors up, 14-0, with 8:40 left in the first half.
Newport, which went 80 yards on nine plays for a touchdown on their opening possession, produced a 10-play, 73-yard procession to create their 21-0 halftime lead.
The 73-yard march opened with six straight Yokoyama carries. The 5-foot-10, 198-pounder also gained 11 yards after catching a screen pass and added a six-yard run before Rios hit Andrews for the touchdown.
Yokoyama, operating behind tackles Salem and Dillon Gillette, guards Trever Lawrence and Ted Berry, center Conner Miki and tight end Aqueveque, handled all five times on a five-play, 80-yard touchdown drive after the Tars fielded the second-half kickoff.
Newport Harbor 35, Fountain Valley 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 7 – 14 – 7 – 7 — 35
Ftn. Valley 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
NH – Yokoyama 2 run (Ochoa kick), 2:16.
NH – Yokoyama 14 run (Ochoa kick), 8:40.
NH – Andrews 11 pass from Rios (Ochoa kick), 2:03.
NH – Yokoyama 22 run (Ochoa kick), 9:41.
NH – Diller 8 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 9:19.
NH – Yokoyama, 22-221, 3 TDs.
FV – Drummond, 14-101.
NH – Rios, 4-9-0, 47, 1 TD.
FV – Balzer, 6-11-0, 35.
NH – Andrews, 2-28, 1 TD.
FV – Myers, 2-15.