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Sailors' Better Half Is Enough to Beat Foothill


NEWPORT BEACH — Newport Harbor got by on one half of a football team again Thursday night. The Sailors walloped on defense and wallowed on offense.

In the end, they had a 14-3 victory over Foothill at Newport Harbor. Satisfying, but not exactly pleasing.

Coach Jeff Brinkley wouldn't come out and say it, but he certainly wasn't enthralled. His actions said plenty. After seeing his team score only three touchdowns in two games, plus two quarters, enough was enough.

He yanked quarterback Ryan Smith, who was four of 13 and had missed a wide-open Mike Freeman in the end zone in the first quarter. Smith was replaced by John Giordani at the start of the second half.

"We weren't getting it done offensively," Brinkley said. "We needed a spark."

They got a flicker of one. Giordani, a junior, wobbled at first, then found the ability to move the Sailors (3-0).

He took them 59 yards in the fourth quarter, hitting two third-down passes to keep the drive alive. Then, on third-and-five, he found a wide-open Brett Hlista in the end zone to give Newport Harbor a 7-3 lead.

Quite a big first-varsity-game moment, eh?

"You mean that touchdown pass that was thrown 10 yards short?" said Giordani, who was four of six for 47 yards. "He was so wide open, I didn't want to mess up and overthrow him. I just put it up there."

On this night, kid, it was a gem.

"I've been waiting for a chance," Giordani said. "I felt I could do the job. But I think Ryan can move the team, too."

He hadn't been doing it, though. The Sailors had lived off running back Wade Tift, who had gained 204 yards rushing and scored 20 of his team's 34 points through the first two games.

The Sailors had only 181 yards Thursday. That included Tift's 73-yard touchdown run that clinched the game with two minutes left.

But offense isn't why Newport Harbor is ranked eighth in Orange County.

The Sailors decimated a third consecutive opponent. Foothill (0-3) gained 155 yards and turned the ball over twice. Scott Sandstrom and Matt Burns each intercepted passes.

Foothill quarterback Kevin Daft was six of 19 for 42 yards. The running game was hampered by the loss of Ethan Taub, who left in the first quarter with an ankle injury. He was taken to the hospital for X-rays.

"We play defense and we play it hard," linebacker Steve Gonzales said.

Especially Gonzales, who constantly rattling nerves and teeth. In fact, the Knights' only scoring drive came when Gonzales was on the bench with leg cramps.

The Knights got as close as the 10-yard line behind the running of Tramel Robinson (70 yards in 16 carries). They settled for a 27-yard field goal by Cody Clemmons.

It looked like it would be enough, but the Sailors finally caught up with their better half.

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