In his 28 seasons guiding the Newport Harbor High football team, Jeff Brinkley has come to expect perfection in the ninth game of the season. But, gunning for his 28th straight win in the second-to-last regular-season contest, he was forced to swallow a three-and-out on the Sailors' first possession against perennial Sunset League basement dweller Marina on Friday night.
The early futility, which included 10 straight Marina points to open the Sunset League game at Huntington Beach High, turned out to be more prelude than an omen, as the visiting Tars scored touchdowns on their next seven possessions en route to a 49-17 romp.
The win, which creates a season-best two-game winning streak for the Sailors (5-4, 3-1 in league), ranked No. 7 in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division, helped them remain tied for first place with one league game remaining. Should Newport Harbor defeat Huntington Beach on Friday on the Oilers' field, they would earn at least a share of the league crown.
The win also extended more lengthy streaks, including the aforementioned success in the ninth game of the season (now at 30 straight), as well as 13 consecutive triumphs over Marina. Further, Newport Harbor is 17-1-1 against the Vikings in their last 19 meetings as the Vikings dropped their 45th consecutive league game.
But Marina hardly looked like a doormat at the outset, as it drove 62 yards on seven plays with the opening kickoff to take a 7-0 lead. After Newport's initial three-and-out, the Vikings (1-8, 0-4) marched from their own 31-yard line to the Sailors' 23 to set up a 40-yard field goal by senior Landon Marshall to put the hosts on top, 10-0.
"They've done that to just about everyone in the league — jumped out with a touchdown early," Brinkley said. "They had a good scheme tonight. Their [coaches] do a good job. They are battling some adversity and I think they've got their kids hanging in there. I give them a lot of credit."
But Brinkley had to credit his own troops' ability to answer back.
"It happens sometimes," Sailors senior Quest Truxton, who like junior tailback Chance Siemonsma scored three touchdowns, said of the slow start. "Guys don't have their mind right. But we knew we would turn it around."
The turnaround was instantaneous as Siemonsma, who finished with 179 yards on nine carries, bolted 80 yards with the first of his three touchdown runs on the first play of the Sailors' second possession.
On the Sailors' subsequent possession, junior quarterback Cole Norris found Truxton on an 82-yard touchdown bomb and Michael Schultz booted the second of his seven conversion kicks to give Newport Harbor the lead for good with 1:13 left in the first quarter.
A nine-yard Siemonsma run was followed by Truxton's 66-yard return of a field-goal attempt blocked by senior Cory Stowell to make it 28-10.
Newport needed just five plays to cover 51 yards on its final possession of the half, with Truxton catching a 15-yard scoring pass from Norris (184 yards on seven-of-10 passing) to create a 35-10 halftime bulge.
Siemonsma darted 56 yards to paydirt on the Tars' opening possession of the second half and reserve tailback Jack Ripillo made it 49-10 late in the third quarter with a two-yard scoring run.
Truxton totaled 97 yards on his two receptions, both touchdowns, and added a 32-yard kickoff return and a 23-yard punt return to his evening.
"I'm always going for the big play; that's kind of my role," said Truxton, who was happy to share the scoring spotlight with Siemonsma. "We were fighting for touchdowns."
Garrett Hall and Keaton Cablay had interceptions for the Tars, while defensive linemen Caleb O'Neal and Joey Stukonis were in on three and two sacks, respectively.
Next week, the Sailors battle for a championship.
Newport Harbor 49, Marina 17
SCORE BY QUARTERS