No opening jitters for Sailors

DANA POINT — The Newport Harbor High football team went into Friday down. Marred by injuries to their starting tailback, tight end and defensive end, the Sailors couldn't afford to lose any more players.

Yet, two more went down in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs at Dana Hills.

Ramsey Hufford, a two-way standout lineman, hurt his ankle late in the first half, and then star quarterback Cole Norris left after he got the wind knocked out of him in the third quarter. The two returned, Hufford at the start of the second half and Norris on the next play, and the Sailors finished off the Dolphins.

The Sailors overcame playing without three key starters and won, 32-13, advancing to the quarterfinals for the second straight season. They pulled it off in a workmanlike fashion that reminded Coach Jeff Brinkley of his old Newport Harbor teams, with long drives and pounding the ball.

Garrett Hall filled in for running back Chance Siemonsma, who missed the game with a leg injury. Hall, behind a dominant performance by the offensive line, rushed 23 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Hall's final nine carries impressed Brinkley the most. The senior had already rushed for 22- and seven-yard touchdowns, but it was those last nine carries that secured the Sailors' quarterfinal date at home against top-seeded La Habra (10-1) next week.

During a 19-play, 93-yard scoring drive, Hall touched the ball almost half the time. The drive began after the Sailors (6-5) came away with their third fumble, stopping Dana Hills (5-6) on the seven. Newport Harbor's ensuing drive began with 23 seconds left in the third quarter and it ended at the 2:45 mark in the fourth quarter with Riley Gaddis scoring on a nine-yard run to the left.

The Sailors overcame playing without three key starters and won, 32-13, advancing to the quarterfinals for the second straight season. They pulled it off in a workmanlike fashion that reminded Coach Jeff Brinkley of his old Newport Harbor teams, with long drives and pounding the ball.

"They knew we were going to run. We knew we were going to run. Everybody in the stadium knew it. But they couldn't stop it and that's a great feeling."

Five teams from the Sunset League made the postseason and four reached the quarterfinals. The Sailors made sure to join Edison, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach by using a balanced attack and taking advantage of three turnovers.

The first of the turnovers came at a crucial time, toward the end of the first half.

The Sailors' 13-7 lead didn't look like it would hold up. Dana Hills marched 78 yards in 14 plays, making it to Newport Harbor's two. Along the way, the Sailors lost Hufford. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder limped off the field, but three plays later, the defense stopped the Dolphins.

Mac Vail, who scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak on the game's opening drive, tried another sneak. This time, from the two, Vail lost the ball. Eddie Nolan, a linebacker, recovered the fumble on the two and Newport Harbor stayed ahead.

The Sailors extended their lead at the start of the third quarter.

Quarterback Cole Norris, who completed 13 of 16 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown, hit wide receiver Cory Stowell (seven catches for 109 yards) in stride on a 47-yard pass. Then he found receiver Quest Truxton for a 12-yard gain, setting up the offense on the one, where Trevor Shaw produced a touchdown on a fullback give.

With 4:15 left in the third and Dana Hills down, 20-13, Norris took a big hit. He slowly walked to the sideline after getting the wind knocked out of him.

Brinkley sent out backup Dalton Rosene, but just for one play. Norris recovered and jogged back onto the field. He wasn't 100%, but who is this time of the year?

Norris and Hufford, his injured ankle taped up, good enough for him to block on offense, finished strong. They, along with the rest of the banged up Sailors, have a week to rest.

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