High School Football: Can't top 1994 Sailors

A group of students with leather helmets, shoulder pads, cleats and a football took the field one Friday afternoon in October of 1931 behind the leadership of Coach Ralph Reed, and when the dust had cleared they had come up short, 7-0, to Orange High. The Newport Harbor Sailors would score two touchdowns that year en route to a 2-4 record with both victories over tiny Capistrano High. A year later they would score two more touchdowns, but end up winless in six starts.

It would be 12 years before the legendary Hal Sheflin led the Sailors to their storied appearance in the CIF Playoffs against La Verne Bonita in 1942, led by future three-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis when at West Point. Sheflin led Harbor to a 6-0 halftime lead, but was forced to sit out the second half with an injury as Davis ran wild in a 39-6 victory. Time Magazine asked Davis, when a sophomore at Army, to name the greatest football player he had ever faced. He replied, "Harold Sheflin."

Twenty-eight more seasons would pass before Ernie Johnson's Tars captured the school's second Sunset League crown in 1970. And it would be nearly a quarter century later — 1994 — before Jeff Brinkley's Sailors found perfection in an unforgettable 14-0 run to the CIF Southern Section Division V championship thriller over highly regarded Servite.

An 82-year history of great moments and great games, and far too many for simply a "Top 10."

Huge upsets, title games, thrillers and escapes … but perfection tops them all.

Here are my all-time top 25 Newport Harbor football games.

1. 1994 – Newport Harbor, 20, Servite 15: If you ask the coach about this one, he'll tell you, "The most exciting game ever, a program changer." That's how Jeff Brinkley sees it, and who can argue? Before an overflow crowd of 8,200 at Orange Coast College the Sailors trailed, 15-14, with 4:08 left. Brian Johnson picked up 19 yards on two carries to get the Sailors to the Servite 38 to set up the winning play. Tight end Mike Freeman hauled in a pass down the left side at the 12 and bulled his way into the end zone for the go-ahead TD. Servite still had 2:37 left to retaliate, but waiting for the Friars were defensive ends Tom Eaton and Jack Hogan … Eaton causing a fumble and Hogan pouncing on the ball with 1:35 left. It was over. Quarterback John Giordani and tailback Brian Johnson each scored a TD in the first half, and linebacker Bill Johns led the way defensively. Servite dominated the clock, 31:25 to 16:25 with a wicked running game, only to be overcome by the likes of sophomore Danny Pulido, Scott Sandstrom, Dan McDonough, Jon Benzinger, James "Big Country" Moureaux, Dan Eadie, Dan Berger, Sky Conway, Moises Piedra, Sherif Pepic, Brandon Hetrick and the rest of the Sailors, who pulled off the impossible dream.

2. 1978 – Newport Harbor 10, St. Paul 7: No. 1-ranked and top-seeded St. Paul entered with a flawless record and was widely considered the best team in Southern California, as well as the state, while the Sailors, who had already lost four times, were the last of 16 teams to be selected in the CIF Southern Section Division I Playoffs, finishing third in the Sunset League. Dave Hitzel led the way in the decisive fourth-quarter drive, with a 27-yard pass to Randy Starr setting up Hitzel's winning touchdown from a yard out in the monumental upset with just 20 seconds left to leave a scar on the St. Paul gridiron that is most likely still there. Coach Marijon Ancich's Swordsmen had bludgeoned nine straight opponents, but were stuffed from start to finish, netting just 53 yards rushing and four first downs overall in the most stunning result in perhaps CIF history at that point. St. Paul's only appearance in Newport territory was a first-quarter 65-yard scoring pass and gained just 15 yards in the air on two other completions against the Dave Thompson-led Tars' defense. Bob da Silva kicked a 23-yard field goal for Coach Bill Pizzica's Sailors in the third quarter. Mike Johnson was the Tars' spearhead offensively with 143 yards on 36 carries. Favored Redlands was next and the Terriers felt the same sting by the same score, 10-7.

3. 1979 - Newport Harbor 17, Edison 13: Quarterback Frank Seurer and tailback Kerwin Bell were just two of the featured stars of Edison, which would finish the season with a 55-0 victory over Redlands in the CIF championship game at Anaheim Stadium. But on this Homecoming night, Coach Hank Cochrane's Sailors, 1-3-1 entering the Sunset League opener, pulled off the CIF Southern Section's upset of the year to once again Bill Workman's Chargers. Scoreless after three quarters, Edison struck first on a short Seurer keeper, then Gary Parrish led the Tars' assault with a four-yard TD run to cap a 62-yard drive. On the next series for Harbor, Parrish hit tight end Mike Ramsen with a 26-yard pass play to cap a 54-yard march in the steady drizzle. Defensive end Peter Gust jarred the ball loose on Edison's next series and Neil Ross fell on it at the Edison 13, setting up Scott Giem's decisive 29-yard field goal. Alan Gaddis intercepted a Seurer aerial to seal it with 52 seconds left. Bell was held to 93 yards rushing on 22 carries. Edison's net rushing was but 92 yards.

4. 1992 – Newport Harbor 28, Corona del Mar 21: It was the Back Bay Thriller labeled as "The Battle of the Bay II," as the Sailors had lost a 17-0 decision to CdM in league play, but were re-matched in the CIF semifinals at Davidson Field. Scott Hardesty appeared to seal Harbor's fate when he stripped the ball loose and Chris Taylor picked it up and ran 75 yards for a TD to put CdM up, 21-13, with less than seven minutes to go. But Wade Tift responded with a long kickoff return to the Tars' 45, and two seven-yard fourth-down passes by quarterback Gregg Williams to sophomore tight end Mike Freeman kept it going, setting up a 25-yard TD strike to Chad La Bass. A Williams-La Bass combination worked for the two-point conversion to tie it, 21-21. Moments later linebacker Jeff Sanita jarred the ball loose on CdM's third play and Chris Edwards recovered, setting up Tift's 25-yard "draw play" for the winning margin with 1:30 left.

5. 1974 – Newport Harbor 17, Edison 16: It was the first-ever meeting between the two and it was a classic before an overflow crowd of 6,600 fans at Huntington Beach High. The Edison Chargers seemed to have it in hand with a 16-10 lead, but had left a crack open in the door very late in the game with a short field goal on fourth-and-very short for the precarious six-point edge. The Sailors responded by driving the length of the field, highlighted by a 31-yard pass from Gordon Adams to Vinnie Mulroy, and after a major penalty and seven plays, it set up a six-yard TD pass from Adams to tight end Mark Steverson with 36 seconds remaining. Art Sorce toed the PAT and Edison was left with no timeouts. Harbor Coach Bill Pizzica started Steve Foley at quarterback, but an ankle injury in the first quarter brought on Adams. Brian Theriot averaged 8.0 yards per carry on 11 rushes, with a longest gain of 24 yards.

6. 1999 – Newport Harbor 19, Irvine 18: Andre Stewart's 42-yard dash, followed by a 19-yard TD run on the next play ignited a fourth-quarter flurry as the Sailors (13-0-1) rallied from an 18-6 deficit in the CIF Southern Section Division VI title game at Orange Coast. Stewart's TD cut it to 18-13, and after Irvine's ensuing 82-yard kickoff return was negated by a disputed penalty, Garrett Troncale caused an Irvine fumble and Andy Kalanza picked the ball up and ran four yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Brian Gaeta had connected on field goals of 38 and 36 yards. Kelsey Peterson (two interceptions and a fumble recovery) and Billy Clayton (interception) keyed the defense.

7. 2005 – Newport Harbor 28, Valencia 21: Quarterback Tom Jackson, threw for three touchdowns and ran for another to lead the way in the CIF Division VI championship victory at Orange Coast. Jackson hit Nick Novotny for a 10-yard scoring strike in the first half, and then found Jarrett Daniel from 21 yards out, and finally, the game-winner, a two-yard aerial to Delano McKenzie. James Coder snuffed out Valencia's last-gasp efforts with an interception to seal the crown.

8. 1970 – Newport Harbor 7, Anaheim 0: Coach Ernie Johnson's shocker over Clare VanHoorebeke's Colony in his first and only shot in the Sunset League en route to the first CIF playoffs experience since 1942. Anaheim, No. 1 in Orange County, No. 2 in the CIF Southern Section, was dominated by the Sailors, who outrushed Anaheim, 279-85, before a reported 7,000 fans at Davidson Field. Terry Albritton's jarring tackle forced a fumble and Jim Swick covered the ball in the end zone for the game's only TD. Quarterback Alvin White converted for the 7-0 lead. The Colonists threatened late with a long drive, but Taras Young's interception with 3:16 left ended Anaheim hopes.

9. 2004 – Newport Harbor 24, Mayfair 17: A miracle finish lifted the Tars to the CIF Division VI semifinal victory at Cerritos College. Travis Duffield kicked a 28-yard field goal with 25.5 seconds left, Taylor Young covered a Mayfair fumble on the first snap on its subsequent series and quarterback Kasey Peters, who racked up 321 yards and two TDs passing, lofted a "Hail Mary" from 30 yards out to Alex Orth in a crowd of defenders, including future NFL standout Alterraun Verner (Tennessee Titans), with 4.2 seconds left to put away the Lakewood-based Monsoons. Peters scored Harbor's other TD with a one-yard run in the second quarter. Senior Spencer Link broke Danny Pulido's school record of 143 career receptions.

10. 1942 – Newport Harbor 7, Santa Ana 0: Hal Sheflin powered his way offensively and defensively to lead the Sailors (9-1) to victory in the Sunset League championship game, setting up their first-ever CIF playoff game against Glenn Davis-led Bonita. But it was Ed Miller bulling over from the one-yard line on fourth down for the game's only touchdown with a handoff from quarterback Bob Gaynor after he faked to Sheflin. The game was played in near-100 degrees heat, forcing the Sailors to sit down during timeouts.

11. 1973 – Newport Harbor 21, Loara 17: Trailing, 17-14 with 4:50 left, Harbor quarterback Steve Bukich hit Vinnie Mulroy for gains of 48 and 39 yards to get deep into Loara territory, and finally pulled it out with a plunge on fourth and inches by Tom Saftig with 29 seconds left in the Sunset League thriller. John Phipps got the Sailors on the scoreboard first in the second quarter when he recovered an errant punt snap in the end zone, and after a Bukich to Mulroy pass for 36 yards, Brian Theriot punched it in from the three-yard line with 9:36 left.

12. 1994 – Newport Harbor 13, Foothill 10 (OT): After a 7-7 deadlock in regulation, Bill Johns came through with an awesome stop to force Foothill to settle for a 22-yard field goal to go up, 10-7, in the tie-breaker. Newport's offense then took the field at the Foothill 10 and received a huge boost from Dan McDonough's come-through reception at the four-yard line. On fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line the Sailors brushed aside field-goal thoughts and went with tailback Brian Johnson, who pushed through behind a wall of blockers to squeeze into the finals a week later against Servite. Johnson scored the Sailors' touchdown in regulation from 15 yards out.

13. 2006 – Newport Harbor 21, Esperanza 13: Esperanza was loaded, averaging 44.6 points per start with No. 5 status in the Pac-5 Division, but four lost fumbles, a blocked punt by Brett Houton and recovery by J.B. Green for a TD, followed later by a 23-yard touchdown run by Ben Frazier had the Aztecs playing futile catch-up all the way in the shocking, rain-drenched Sunset League opener at Davidson Field. Quarterback Kevin Williams bootlegged from four yards out for the decisive third touchdown with 1:59 left.

14. 1996 – Newport Harbor 23, Servite 16: Trailing 16-15 in the CIF Division V semifinal, quarterback Josiah Fredriksen used a self-determined wrinkle in his delivery and hit Brad La Bass with a 19-yard touchdown pass deep in the fourth quarter for the winning margin at Cal State Fullerton. Fredriksen also had an eight-yard TD pass to Danny Pulido, and Ray Ohrel, who carried 30 times for 153 yards, scored on a 16-yard run. Pete Hogan and Joe Urban keyed the defense with fumble recoveries.

15. 1974 – Newport Harbor 21, Loara 14: It's always been known as "The "Bucko Shaw Game," after the Sailors' defensive back intercepted and ran 100 yards for a touchdown to give the Tars a 21-0 halftime lead as time ran out at halftime at La Palma Park. Shaw, a converted offensive lineman, who had two key tackles as Loara tried to punch it in from inside the five-yard line, intercepted a fourth-down pass and lumbered 100 yards for the score to enhance touchdown runs by Steve Foley and Brian Theriot.

16. 1985 - Newport Harbor 24, Saddleback 21: CIF Player of the Year Shane Foley led the attack with two TD passes and a game-saving interception in the Sea View League showdown. Sterling Coberly kicked a 42-yard field goal with 2:31 left after the Tars marched from their own five-yard line behind a third-down strike to Mark Craig for 16 yards and a 38-yarder to Andy Sheppard in the classic matchup of coaches Mike Giddings and Saddleback Coach Jerry Witte.

17. 1992 – Newport Harbor 28, Rubidoux 14: Two second-half touchdown runs of 53 and 12 yards by Colin Morris broke it open in the CIF Division VI quarterfinal against unbeaten and top-seeded Rubidoux. Gregg Williams had two first-half TD passes to Chad La Bass (20 yards) and Mike Freeman (13 yards), setting up the CdM showdown a week later.

18. 2007 – Newport Harbor 7, Notre Dame 3: Quarterback Andrew MacDonald's 22-yard scoring pass to J.B. Brown with 5:09 remaining overturned a 3-0 deficit. "Notre Dame has five Division I players over there and our kids just came in and competed their tails off," Brinkley said of the CIF Pac-5 playoff opener in Sherman Oaks. Brandon Davis led Harbor's defense with two sacks to choke off a Notre Dame scoring threat in the first half.

19. 1994 – Newport Harbor 27, Santa Margarita 23: Down, 14-0, at the outset, the Tars rallied behind John Giordani's three TD passes to Jon Benzinger, the last one a 52-yard payoff with 1:50 left, to give Coach Jeff Brinkley his first league championship in his 17th year of coaching. A big key to the winning drive was Brian Johnson's three-yard burst on fourth-and-one, as Harbor approached midfield.

20. 1984 – Newport Harbor 26, Saddleback 26: A last-play 43-yard field goal by Sterling Coberly pulled a tie out of what appeared to be certain defeat at the Santa Ana Bowl en route to a Sea View League co-championship with the Roadrunners. Coberly had four field goals in all, Shane Foley completed 21 of 39 passes for 299 yards, Ho Truong caught 10 passes for 159 yards, John Spangler had two interceptions, and a last-ditch drive to set up Coberly's saving field goal was a critical 11-yard Foley strike to Bryan Guptill.

21. 1973 – Newport Harbor 35, South Hills 20: The Sailors swept to the first-ever CIF playoff victory over unbeaten South Hills of West Covina at Mt. San Antonio College. Steve Bukich ran for two TDs and threw a 35-yard scoring pass to Vinnie Mulroy and Brian Theriot scored two four-yard TDs in his 22 carries for 123 yards. Bukich went to Mulroy five times, and the spectacular receiver caught them all, for 107 yards.

22. 1983 – Newport Harbor 7, Corona del Mar 3: Before an overflow crowd of 6,300 at Orange Coast College, the Sea View League title game was a brutal defensive duel. Steve Brazas scored the Sailors' only touchdown from a yard out in the second quarter, but it was the defense, behind Brett Kacura, which saved the Tars, who managed just 173 yards in offense en route to an 8-3-1 record. Corona was 8-1 before falling in the league's showdown.

Ah, so many great moments in the Battle of the Bay … 8-7 in '89; 27-26 last year; 7-3 in '95; 10-7 in '77; 7-0 in '70; 9-7 in '78; 8-7 in '99; 7-6 in '94; 7-3 in '95; 21-17 in '04; 29-26 in '11; the original in '63, 13-12, but some of them … so many that deserve to be listed here.

23. 2013 – Newport Harbor 27, Los Alamitos 24 (OT): Their second straight overtime victory over Los Alamitos was picked up in this season's Sunset League opener as quarterback Cole Norris hit Cory Stowell on a 25-yard post route on the Sailors' first offensive play in overtime after giving up a 22-yard field goal that had Los Al with a 24-21 advantage. It was Norris' third TD pass, twice to Stowell. Los Alamitos entered unbeaten with No. 3 ranking in the CIF Southwest Division. Earlier this season the Tars captured a 34-33 thriller over Palos Verdes in nonleague play.

24. 1963 – Newport Harbor 7, Anaheim 0: Like a prelude to the l970 game with the Colonists, it was at Davidson Field, with Anaheim, No. 1 in Southern California, against a Sailors' team still stinging from a 40-7 loss to Santa Ana a week earlier and eventually 4-5 overall. Steve Powers pounced on an Anaheim fumble at the Colony's four-yard line and Mike Ober punched it in from a yard out for the game's only TD. John Weber ran for the one-point conversion. Anaheim threatened with two deep drives, but Powers stopped one march with his second fumble recovery, and with 1:34 left with Anaheim camped on the Newport 17, Dan Metzger's deflection wound up in Dick Chapman's hands for the Sailors' interception to finish it.

25. 2005 – Newport Harbor 32, El Dorado 31 (OT): In a yo-yo game, the Sailors led 17-0 early, but trailed the Hawks in overtime, 31-24, in the first round of the CIF Division VI Playoffs. Tailback Jack Tracy scored from eight yards out and Coach Jeff Brinkley went for two — with a ruse drawing El Dorado offside to get the ball to the 1 1/2-yard line, setting up Ryan Rippon's burst up the middle for the winning edge.

ROGER CARLSON is a former longtime sports editor of the Daily Pilot

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