NEWPORT BEACH — Coach Jeff Brinkley said his Newport Harbor High football team needed some momentum going into a difficult Sunset League schedule.
The nonleague games haven't been pushovers either. But Thursday night, the Sailors played perhaps their most complete game of the season.
Newport Harbor turned it on after a slow start to blast Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach, 33-3, at Davidson Field.
"We needed the momentum going into this league," said Brinkley, whose team opens Sunset League play at home against Fountain Valley on Oct. 14.
On the night the press box was named after longtime Daily Pilot sports reporter/editor Roger Carlson, the Sailors (2-3) gave reporters something to write about. They avoided their first 1-4 start since 1988.
Senior Titus Hasson hurt the visiting Mustangs (1-4) on both sides of the ball. He had 110 yards rushing and two touchdowns, including a 52-yard scamper up the middle midway through the third quarter that gave Newport Harbor a 14-3 lead. He also had two interceptions on defense.
The offensive line opened holes; Hasson also had another long run called back due to an illegal shift. He and Brinkley gave credit to the improved play of the line, consisting of left tackle Sam Bush, left guard Grant Frazier, center Max Heilig, right guard Hunter Durante and right tackle Ramsey Hufford.
"Their left side was weaker," Hasson said. "We just pounded away on their left side. I owe everything to the line."
Hasson's third-quarter touchdown was part of a string of three touchdowns in just more than five minutes, as the Sailors put the game out of reach. Senior quarterback Cole Blower threw for the last two. First, he hit senior Kory Cablay on a 43-yard play-action pass to the right. Then he found his favorite target, junior Landon Gyulay, on a 26-yard touchdown pass after Blower scrambled out of trouble to the right.
The last touchdown gave the Sailors a 31-3 lead in the third quarter. It also was set up by Hasson, coming two plays after the safety recorded his second interception of the game at the Mira Costa 26-yard line.
The second interception surprised Hasson as much as anyone.
"I was dropping back and he threw it straight to me," said Hasson, whose interceptions were his first two of the year. "I was just backpedaling."
Mira Costa alternated its quarterbacks, Chase Caprio and Xan Cuevas. Both played series in both halves.
The Sailors' Garrett Hall also intercepted a pass. Jason Aviles also recovered a fumble late in the game after Adam Kinder stripped the ball from the quarterback.
Mira Costa came into the game averaging just 11 points per game. Newport Harbor made sure the Mustangs' offensive struggles continued after they got a field goal on their second drive.
Big plays were at a premium in the first half. After getting just two first downs on their first three possessions, the Sailors finally got on the scoreboard midway through the second quarter.
Hasson capped a 10-play, 81-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run, giving the Sailors a 7-3 lead with 5:39 left before halftime.
The Sailors added to the lead at the end of the half, after Cablay returned a punt to the Mira Costa 43-yard line with just a minute to go.
Gyulay's spectacular 29-yard catch on third-and-nine brought the Sailors closer. Gyulay leaped up and appeared to bat the ball in the air. Then, in heavy traffic, he caught it as he fell to the ground at the Mira Costa 13-yard line.
Newport Harbor got the ball to just outside the three-yard line on fourth-and-one.
Brinkley elected against going for the first down, and Christian Ochoa kicked a 20-yard field goal that gave Harbor a 10-3 halftime advantage.
The Sailors poured it on after that, building confidence for that Sunset League opener.
"We had a good drive at the end of the second quarter going into halftime," Brinkley said. "We just wanted to maintain that in the third quarter. We got rolling pretty good there."
Newport Harbor 33, Mira Costa 3
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Mira Costa 3 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 3
Newport Harbor 0 – 10 – 21 – 2 — 33
MC – Jerrigan 25 FG, 2:24.
NH – Hasson 2 run (Ochoa kick), 5:39.
NH – Ochoa 20 FG, 0:03.
NH – Hasson 52 run (Ochoa kick), 9:31.
NH – Cablay 43 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 5:44.
NH – Gyulay 26 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 4:13.
NH – Safety (Mira Costa holding penalty in end zone), 9:38.
MC – Giovati, 15-59.
NH – Hasson, 16-110, 2 TDs.
MC – Caprio, 6-18-2, 45.
NH – Blower, 10-18-0, 184, 2 TDs.
MC – Lawson-Gayle, 4-36.
NH – Gyulay, 4-78, 1 TD.