MISSION HILLS — Newport Harbor High won the coin flip at the start of the first round of the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff game at Alemany. Against a high-powered offense, Coach Jeff Brinkley said he wanted to start Friday night with the ball.
The Sailors elected to receive the kickoff. They did not get the ball.
Alemany attempted an onside kick and recovered it near midfield. The Warriors set the tone, keeping the ball away from the Sailors and giving it to their quarterback.
Vernon Adams knew what to do with the pigskin.
The senior rushed for three touchdowns and threw for one, finishing with 100 yards on the ground and through the air to lead the fourth-seeded Warriors to a 27-7 victory on a cold night.
Newport Harbor (6-5) fell short of ending Alemany's perfect season. The Sailors exit the opening round of the postseason for the second straight year.
Alemany (11-0), in its first year in the Pac-5 Division, advances to the second round, where it plays Lakewood. Newport Harbor lost its chance for a rematch against the Lancers, who eliminated the Sailors in the playoffs last season.
The Sailors found themselves behind, 14-0, in the first quarter. Alemany tried to limit Newport Harbor's offensive opportunities by trying two onside kicks in the first three minutes.
Brinkley said he warned his special teams about the possibility of onside kicks. The second one against the Sailors was not a success, but the first one was.
The successful onside kick recovery by the Warriors and a Newport Harbor turnover inside the opponent's five-yard line hurt the Sailors. Both led to Alemany touchdowns in the first 12 minutes.
Adams was also responsible for the Warriors' success early on, scoring on runs of one and 35 yards. He finished with 135 yards on 16 carries and completed 17 of 24 passes for 197 yards.
The 6-foot, 180-pounder was elusive, recording 91 yards rushing by halftime. A chunk of the total came on a 13-play, 98-yard drive, which Adams capped with a one-yard touchdown run with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
After Newport Harbor missed an opportunity to tie the game at 7-7 when it reached Alemany's two, the offense responded on its second possession in the game.
The Sailors marched down field, mixing in passes from quarterback Austin Rios and runs by tailback Buzzy Yokoyama.
Yokoyama, who finished with 145 yards on 26 carries, recorded the Sailors' lone touchdown. On a 13-yard run to the left, the junior hurdled a defender and cut Alemany's lead to 14-7 with 7:18 left in the first half.
The defense tried to spark the Sailors before halftime. Cornerback Parker Norton intercepted a pass on the Sailors' one. Newport Harbor moved into field-goal range and a chance to make it a 14-10 game at halftime. Christian Ochoa's 42-yard field-goal try as time expired was short.
The momentum stayed with Alemany in the second half, much of it because of Adams right-handed arm and legs.
When Alemany opened the third quarter on its own 10-yard line, it put together another 13-play scoring drive. Adams kept it alive, converting two first downs on third down, and one on fourth down.
After completing a 12-yard pass to Shane Drozdowski on fourth-and-eight on the Sailors' 32, Adams decided to use his legs. He took the snap and ran left, before shaking a defender, and then another on his way for a 20-yard touchdown run. The Warriors built a 20-7 lead midway through the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Sailors failed to respond with a long drive of their own. Alemany owned the time of possession in the third quarter, as it had the ball for nearly nine minutes.
When the Sailors got their next shot on offense in the second half, they gave up the ball right away. Alemany's Tyler Dabovich intercepted a pass near midfield and returned it 39 yards to Newport Harbor's 17.
After a false start, Adams burned Newport Harbor's secondary. Adams fired a 22-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jericho Richardson in the corner of the end zone, showing he was also dangerous throwing.
Alemany 27, Newport Harbor 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport 0 – 7 – 0 – 0 — 7
Alemany 14 – 0 – 6 – 7 — 27
A – Adams 1 run (Meza kick), 9:02.
A – Adams 35 run (Meza kick), :20.
NH – Yokoyama 13 run (Ochoa kick), 7:18.
A – Adams 20 run (kick failed), 5:57.
A – Richardson 22 pass from Adams (Meza kick), 9:08.
NH – Yokoyama, 26-148, 1 TD.
A – Adams, 17-135, 3 TDs.
NH – Rios, 15-24-2, 129.
A – Adams, 17-24-1, 197, 1 TD.
NH – Norton, 10-70.
A – Richardson, 4-106, 1 TD.