NEWPORT BEACH — Since moving to the Sunset League five years ago, Coach Jeff Brinkley has enjoyed success in league openers.
That didn't change Friday night as the Sailors kicked off league play with a convincing 33-7 victory against Fountain Valley.
Brinkley saw his defense create havoc for the visitors, allowing him to improve his record to 5-1 in Sunset League openers. Getting off to the right start in a competitive league is vital.
The way the Sailors see it, three victories in league most likely secures a berth into the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs. The first win was an easy one and it was Newport Harbor's first against an opponent in the Pac-5 this year.
The Sailors' next test in league is at Huntington Beach (5-1, 1-0 in league), which coaches picked to finish third in league. That spot belonged to Newport Harbor last year and it clinched a spot in the playoffs.
Newport Harbor (3-3, 1-0) plans to return to the postseason for a third straight year.
The defense led the way against Fountain Valley (3-3, 0-1). The Sailors in the first half didn't allow a first down, or the Barons to cross midfield.
Newport Harbor scored on a 53-yard interception return for a touchdown by linebacker Marty Taylor to end the first half, giving Newport Harbor a 26-0 lead.
"Marty made a great pick at the end of the half that really swung the momentum to our side," Brinkley said.
The interception was the first of two thrown by Fountain Valley quarterback Chris d'Entremont.
The junior, making his fourth straight start after the Barons lost their returning starter, Josiah Fernandez, to a broken collarbone, almost hit as many Sailor players with passes as he did his teammates.
In the third quarter, safety Zach Wade picked off d'Entremont, who only completed three of 14 passes for 27 yards. Wade returned the interception 63 yards, close to the red zone. The turnover led to a 33-yard touchdown pass by Cole Blower to Blake Bell.
Special teams proved to be an issue for the Barons against the Sailors for the second straight year. The Sailors blocked two punts last year.
This year, Fountain Valley's first punt traveled only 16 yards, setting up the Sailors' first touchdown. Grant Frazier scored on a one-yard fullback dive.
The senior earned the touchdown after lining up on the offensive line the past couple of weeks due to injuries to guards Ted Barry and Hamilton Randle. Barry returned and Frazier went back to fullback.
Frazier, along with the line, cleared the path for tailback Titus Hasson, helping Hasson finish with 77 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. The offense didn't have to do much because of the Sailors' defense and special teams.
Newport Harbor's Dalton Jensen came up with a big play in a punting situation. He didn't let the punter boot one away 48 seconds into the second quarter. Jensen dropped the punter in the end zone for a safety after the punter tried to recover a bad snap.
Hasson returned the ensuing free kick 41 yards into Fountain Valley territory. Hasson capped the short seven-play drive with a five-yard touchdown run.
When it was Hasson's turn to play defense, he broke up a pass near the 30-yard line. The free safety got in the way of the Barons moving the chains for the first time.
"Our secondary was covering well," Brinkley said.
The pass rush was a big reason why. Linebacker Stone Manoa sacked the quarterback twice and defensive ends, Steve Michaelsen and Jensen, combined for a sack.
For the game, the Sailors allowed 97 yards rushing.
Newport Harbor 33, Fountain Valley 7
SCORE BY QUARTERS
F. Valley 0 - 0 - 0 - 7 – 7
Newport 7 - 19 - 7 - 0 – 33
NH – Frazier 1 run (Ochoa kick), 5:53.
NH – Jensen tackles Huynen in end zone for safety, 11:12.
NH – Hasson 5 run (Ochoa kick), 8:30.
NH – Ochoa 34 FG, 0:22.
NH – Taylor 53 interception return (Ochoa kick), 0:00.
NH – Bell 33 pass from Blower (Ochoa kick), 1:49.
FV – Togafau 9 run (Huynen kick), 11:55.
FV - Calvillo, 7-61.
NH - Hasson, 21-77, 1 TD.
FV – d'Entremont, 3-14-2, 27.
NH – Blower, 9-16-1, 87, 1 TD.
FV – Myers, 1-12.
NH – Bell, 1-33, 1 TD.