NEWPORT BEACH — The corner kicks racked up in the first five minutes of the game, three in a row for the Fountain Valley High boys' soccer team.
Newport Harbor Coach Juan Mares did not like what he saw. More than an hour later, the Sailors had finally played with fire one too many times.
Barons senior Eric Shearer scored a rebound goal off a corner kick in the 75th minute, lifting Fountain Valley to a 1-0 victory over Newport Harbor in the teams' Sunset League opener Wednesday at Davidson Field.
Fountain Valley (9-3-2) beat Newport Harbor (7-6-3) for the second time in a week; the first was also a 1-0 victory in the semifinals of the Marina Holiday Classic on Dec. 28.
This one hurt more. The Sailors, who finished last in the six-team league a year ago, failed to get off to a winning start in 2012. And again, it came down to a corner kick.
The Sailors gave up seven corner kicks in the game, while earning just three.
"We just can't give up corner kicks," said Mares, in his second year as head coach. "That's how they scored, off a corner kick again. I told my players, that's been our kryptonite this year, giving up corner kicks. We've just given up too many goals that way ... To give up a goal on a reset, a free kick, just shows us we were asleep that one second.
"It's an improvement from last year. We were knocking on the door."
Newport Harbor did more than knock on the door. It knocked shots off the crossbar late in the second half.
Sophomore midfielder Henry Ramirez provided a spark. Controlling the ball near the home sideline, he sent a beautiful cross to senior Brice Manning, whose header in the box smacked off the crossbar.
Fountain Valley came back two minutes later, striking suddenly off the corner kick. Kenji Louer's shot went off the right bar, and the ball went to junior sweeper Derek Huynen. Barons Coach Jason Smith said Huynen headed the ball back across to Shearer, who scored.
Huynen also had the assist when the teams met last week. The Barons still nearly gave up the equalizer Wednesday in the game's final seconds. Senior forward Christian Ochoa got open in the box but couldn't quite get a clean shot off.
"That was a great opportunity to equalize it there," Smith said. "We could have been looking at 20 more minutes of overtime. You know, it's a good win. Any time you can win on the road in this league and get three points, it's a good result. Newport's a good team."
Newport Harbor has lost senior captain Ethan Murray for the season. Mares said Murray, a defender, tore his lateral meniscus and his popliteal tendon in the Marina tournament, and he had surgery Wednesday.
But the Sailors still shined defensively in the league opener. Center backs Omar Gonzalez and Robert Boullon were both effective in front of senior goalie Rudy Reyes, who also had a strong game with seven saves.
"I felt like we could have had this game easily," said Gonzalez, a senior. "[We could have had] two goals in the first half, maybe another one in the second half. They were a good team, they worked hard, we just had to come out a little stronger. But I think overall, we're doing a lot better than last year."
The Sailors' best chance in the first half came 10 minutes into the game. Ochoa's long throw-in went to Manning, who again headed it toward the goal and required the Barons goalie to leap and bat the ball over the net.
Newport Harbor will need another strong effort to avoid an 0-2 start in league. The Sailors play at defending league champion Edison on Friday.
"We've got to do some things a little bit better and regroup," Mares said. "[Edison] is a tough place to play, but I kind of like it because it's a wide field."