MISSION VIEJO —The last time the Newport Harbor High football team opened the season with a loss was nine years ago. And it came at the hands of Trabuco Hills.
The Mustangs once again stood in the way of the Sailors kicking off the season with a win. They did it convincing fashion on Thursday night, running past and through Newport Harbor en route to a 35-14 home victory.
“We seemed a step slow,” Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley said. “You can see the difference between a veteran team and a young, inexperienced team. [Either you] get better or you get worse.”
Brinkley expects his team to improve after seeing an eight-game winning streak in season openers end.
In the previous eight openers, no team had scored double-digits against Newport Harbor. Trabuco Hills posted 14 points in the opening quarter.
The Mustangs were off and running and the Sailors' defense had no answers for a 5-foot-7 running back named Mitchell Simonsen. The senior rushed for a career-high 208 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“The line was just destroying their [defensive] line,” said Simonsen, adding that the Mustangs had no pre-game jitters.
They already had a game under their belts. The result for the Mustangs was the same as last week, a victory, but it wasn't just another win this time.
For the first time under Coach Scott Orloff, the Mustangs beat a CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division opponent.
“That's been our focus,” said Orloff, who in his first year last season at Trabuco Hills the program went 0-6 against Pac-5 teams, four of those coming in South Coast League, where the Mustangs finished dead last.
“We had kids quit because we worked them hard. We said, ‘Hey, people think you can't compete in the Pac-5. You want to compete in the Pac-5, you've got to get strong, you've got to get fast, you've got to get physical.'”
The Mustangs had to be all that against Newport Harbor in order to get Orloff his first victory against Brinkley.
It took four games, but Orloff, the former head coach at Dana Hills, finally beat a Brinkley-led team.
The way Trabuco Hills did it was impressive. The defense clamped down on the Sailors' ground game, allowing no individual running back to top 60 yards.
Titus Hasson got his chance to carry the ball for the first time for the Sailors late in the first half. The senior showed his speed in the third quarter, breaking off a 16-yard touchdown run to cut Trabuco Hills lead to 21-14.
Newport Harbor couldn't get closer. Hasson finished with 49 yards on seven carries.
“You've got to be able to stop the run,” said Brinkley, whose team was in trouble after defensive lineman Zach Cornwell left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury. “When Cornwell went down, then [Max] Heilig had to play both ways. For never starting a varsity game, all of a sudden you're playing both ways.”
Heilig was already filling in at center for Ted Barry, who Brinkley said missed the game with an ankle injury.
The Sailors struggled moving the chains after halftime. It took the offense 15 minutes before it recorded a first down in the second half. When quarterback Cole Blower ran for a first down, the game was over.
Trabuco Hills led by three touchdowns, two of those scores came on Simonsen runs.
“He competed right down to the end,” Brinkley said of Blower, who finished 14 of 28 for 149 yards and one touchdown and interception.
“We've got to get some threat that we can get an easy score. We can't grind out the 12- or 15-play drives with a young offensive line, with the two sophomores up there. We got to find a way to strike some lightning somehow quickly.”
Trabuco Hills 35, Newport Harbor 14
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Newport Harbor 0 - 7 - 7 - 0 — 14
Trabuco Hills 14 - 7 - 7 - 7 — 35
TH – Kirkland 5 pass from Newsom (Lucas kick), 3:25.
TH – Hartman 2 run (Lucas kick), 1:39.
NH – Gyulay 63 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 5:40.
TH – Dates 28 pass from Newsom (Lucas kick), 2:31.
NH – Hasson 16 run (Ochoa kick), 8:14.
TH – Simonsen 4 run (Lucas kick), 5:15.
TH – Simonsen 18 run (Lucas kick), 9:32.
NH – Swies, 13-58, 1 TD.
TH – Simonsen, 31-208, 2 TDs.
NH – Blower, 14-28-1, 149, 1 TD.
TH – Newsom, 11-19-0, 161, 2 TDs.
NH – Gyulay, 8-102, 1 TD
TH – Dates, 3-50, 1 TD.