By Steve Breazeale
Even with starting running back Chance Siemonsma sidelined for Friday’s CIF-SS Southwest Division first round game, Newport Harbor was able to put on a power rushing display that led them to a 32-13 win over Dana Hills.
The visiting Sailors (6-5, 3-2 Sunset League) rushed for 174 yards and four touchdowns on the night, getting a huge boost from back up Garrett Hall, who ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
The Sailors will now face top seeded La Habra in the second round on November 22.
Dana Hills (5-6, 3-1 Sea View League) did not help their own cause against the Sailors, losing three fumbles that proved costly.
The first major mistake came just before halftime, when Newport Harbor held a 13-7 lead. Dana Hills strung together a seven-plus minute drive, highlighted by a fourth and short conversion by fullback Andrew Dunn that kept scoring hopes alive, and found themselves at the Sailors two-yard line. Dolphins quarterback Mac Vail tried to drive the ball in the end zone two plays later but fumbled, halting any momentum Dana Hills could have carried into halftime.
The Sailors scored three minutes into the third quarter on a one-yard touchdown run by Trevor Shaw that made it 20-7. The score was set up by a 47-yard pass play from junior quarterback Cole Norris to Cory Stowell. The Sailors rushing attack was powerful but Norris was locked in as well, especially in the first half. He completed 13 of 16 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown on the night.
Dana Hills forced their first three-and-out on defense late in the third quarter and looked to benefit from good field position when the Sailors punted out of their own territory, but a fumble and a Newport Harbor recovery again proved disastrous. The Sailors only needed four plays after the fumble to score again to make it 26-13.
A massive, 19-play Newport Harbor scoring drive that ate up 9:30 off the clock in the fourth quarter sealed the win for the visitors. The Sailors ran the ball 16 times on the drive, controlling time of possession and denying the Dolphins a chance at a comeback.
“We’ve had two tough games in a row where we just did not play our best football. It’s a tough way to go out. We were really peaking in league and the last two games, we just did not find a way to get it done,” Dana Hills head coach Todd Rusinkovich said. “But it was great being in the playoffs for the first time since 2009. I can’t say enough about these kids … We’re a relevant team in Orange County again, which is nice. It’s just one of those things where we have to improve.”