BREA — They were two teams almost identical in nature, driven by no-name defenses to match their no-name offenses.
Both have shown an ability to win, but only one has shown the capacity for perfection.
Top-seeded Newport Harbor won its 12th consecutive game, scoring a 24-8 Division V quarterfinal victory over Brea-Olinda Friday in front of 4,000.
The Sailors (12-0) set a school record for victories in the process, surpassing the previous mark of 11 set by the 1992 team that lost to Irvine in the Southern Section final.
That was the only other time in Newport Harbor's 64-year history the team has reached the finals. The only team that stands in the Sailors' way of a second championship appearance is fourth-seeded Foothill. The Knights beat Valencia, 14-7.
Brea finished 8-3-1; the Wildcats were hoping to make their first title appearance since 1963.
Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley said his team took this game much more seriously than its first-round victory over Century. He could tell in the way his players practiced this week. And he could tell the way they played against the Wildcats.
"If they were going to beat us, they were going to have to physically whip us," Brinkley said. "The way they prepared this week, I knew they were ready to play this ballgame."
The Newport Harbor defense allowed only 12 yards rushing and 102 passing--most of which came after the Sailors were ahead, 24-0.
"We came in thinking this was the toughest team we had played to date," quarterback John Giordani said. "In the first half, we played our most complete game of the year, and in the second half we got conservative."
Giordani was mostly brilliant, completing 14 of 22 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns.
"I told the coaches, 'We've got to open it up again,' " Brinkley said. "We were conservative last week (in a 28-14 victory over Saddleback), but (Brea's defense) plays the run tough."
So Giordani threw and the Sailors took off, set up by big plays that led to three first-half scores. The first, a 25-yard field goal by Jeff Pardy, came about only after Giordani completed a second-and-24 pass to Jon Benzinger for 48 yards.
A Brea turnover set up Newport Harbor's next score. Wildcats quarterback Matt Kalcevich pitched the ball behind tailback Jerome Owens and Newport Harbor's Dan McDonough recovered 20 yards downfield, at the Brea 19. Four plays later, Giordani threw three yards to Jeremy Mason to make it 10-0 with 5:57 left in the half.
That might have been enough the way the Sailor defense was playing, but Newport Harbor scored with 10 seconds left in the half to make it 17-0 when Giordani passed nine yards to Danny Pulido, completing an eight-play, 55-yard drive. The offense got the ball because the Sailor defense stopped Brea on fourth and two at the Newport Harbor 45.
"I don't know when it hit us--I think it was over the summer--that we had a chance (to win a title) if we just lay it on the line for 48 minutes every Friday," Giordani said. "Tonight, we didn't leave anything on the field."
Newport Harbor made it 24-0 on the first drive of the second half when four Giordani passes set up Brian Johnson's 25-yard scoring run.