Pacifica, nearly blown out in the first half, came alive in the fourth quarter Friday night to defeat Newport Harbor, 14-6, in a Central Conference playoff game before a crowd of 3,500 at Newport Harbor High.
Shelby Hart threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ashworth and Oscar Ravelo ran one yard for another score as the Mariners advanced to the semifinal round where they will meet Valencia, a 16-7 winner over Corona del Mar.
"I didn't want to tell the boys at halftime we were lucky, but we were very fortunate to be down by only six points at the half," Pacifica Coach Bill Craven said.
Fortunate might have been an understatement. Pacifica had the ball for only three plays in the first quarter, and in the second period Hart threw three interceptions.
Newport Harbor, meanwhile, came out smoking. The Sailors drove 67 yards for a touchdown on their first possession and moved 48 yards on their next series only to miss a 47-yard field goal attempt.
But a pair of fumbles in the second quarter cost Newport two excellent scoring opportunities and, most importantly, a chance to deliver Pacifica a knockout blow.
After catching a Kirk Summers pass at the Pacifica two-yard line, Jim Stanley fumbled and the Mariners' Dan Blaue recovered. Minutes later, Tyler Parks caught a Summers pass on the Pacifica 12 and, while trying for extra yardage, fumbled the ball away to the Mariners' Charlie Powers.
The momentum swung in the second half. Pacifica made some defensive adjustments to stop Newport running back Tom Walker, who gained 88 yards on 17 carries in the first half but just 23 on six runs after intermission. One of those was a fumble near the end of the third period that set up Hart's touchdown pass.
Following Ravelo's scoring run, Summers moved Newport Harbor from its 23 to the Mariners' 15 before his 27th pass attempt was intercepted by Bill Bradley.
"It should have been 20-0 at halftime," Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkly said. "We let them back into the game and when you do that, you're going to get beat."