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PREP EXTRA / SATURDAY FOOTBALL PULLOUT : Newport Harbor Takes Control From Irvine


IRVINE — When it left the South Coast League for the Sea View League in 1991, Irvine took it by the throat.

Friday night, Newport Harbor took it back.

The visiting Sailors did something no other Sea View team had done, beating Irvine, 9-7, in front of a homecoming crowd of 3,800.

Irvine had not lost any of its 14 Sea View games, and had not lost any of its past 17 league games.

But all that changed with Jeff Pardy's 23-yard field goal with 8 minutes 58 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The drive started at the Newport eight-yard line, and it kept the Sailors (6-0, 1-0) unbeaten.

It was Irvine's fourth consecutive loss--all to ranked opponents. The Vaqueros are 2-4, 0-1.

"We didn't come in thinking they were below average or anything," Newport Harbor quarterback John Giordani said. "This was our biggest game of the year. It was a big game for establishing our program in Orange County. If we lost and fell on our face, everything we did in the preseason would have been thrown out the window."

Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley agreed.

"Some of these guys were sophomores when we were playing Irvine in the (Southern Section final in 1992)," he said. "Irvine hasn't lost a game since they joined the Sea View League (including three victories over Newport).

"We've been one of the consistent programs in the county and this stepped us up tonight."

The Sailors looked every bit like the county's eighth-ranked team. They still have not allowed a rushing touchdown, even though Irvine's Russ Diehl did carry the ball 28 times for 116 yards.

Newport Harbor took a lead four minutes into the second quarter when Giordani connected with Mike Freeman on a 28-yard scoring pass. Pardy's point-after attempt was blocked by Jason Miele, and it appeared to be a big play when Irvine drove 78 yards in the final 2:21 of the half. Diehl rushed for most of it, and Scott Larsen's fade pass to Jeff Walker--and then Jamie Bertolli's extra point--made it 7-6.

Irvine could have added to its lead in the third quarter, but linebacker Brian Flynn dropped what could have been an interception with 45 yards of open field in front of him. On Newport's next series, the Sailors drove for the field goal, keyed by a 37-yard pass from Giordani to Jon Benzinger, and Jeremy Mason's 19-yard run.

Irvine had one final opportunity to get the ball back with about three minutes left, but Danny Noisy muffed a punt return and Mason recovered at the 39 with 2:47 to go; it was the game's only turnover. From there, the Sailors ran out the clock on Irvine's dominance of the Sea View League.

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