The Newport Harbor football team are 6-7, making them one of three Southern Section teams with a 0.500 record or less that will play for a CIF Championship this weekend.
Some of the overall teams with losing records that entered the playoffs were happy just making the playoffs, and most of those teams made first-round outings.
Newport Harbor’s losses in the regular season were due to some of the best teams in the county. They lost to a Division 1 team, four Division 2 teams, and a Division 4 and 5 team.
The Sailors learned from the imperfections of their record and wanted to show they had more to accomplish before ending the season.
“Getting this first round victory over Sunny Hills and then Santa Barbara and Dominguez changes the whole perspective of what we’ve accomplished this season,” said Newport Harbor coach Peter Lofthouse. “The reason we’re still at this point is because of our schedule. Playing great programs like the ones we have allows us to come back to those experiences and use what we have learned to prepare for this game.
Newport Harbor and its Division 6 championship opponent, Temecula Valley, are eerily similar. Both teams were general selections from high-caliber leagues.
The Sailors finished fourth in the Sunset League, which some say is Southern California’s top public school league.
Temecula Valley (10-3) finished fourth in the River Valley League behind two Division 2 teams (Murrieta Valley and Vista Murrieta) and one Division 4 team (Chaparral).
“It’s a great football program that has played a schedule like ours,” Lofthouse said of Temecula Valley. “Both teams are proven in battle. It can come down to last possession or who gets a key save. Every game will count in this game.
Temecula Valley last won a CIF Championship in 2019 when he beat Cypress in the Division 7 Final.
Golden Bears quarterback Zach Zella amassed 337 yards in an overtime win over Camarillo in the semifinals. Samuel Gbata Jr. is Temecula Valley’s leading receiver with 1,001 yards and eight total TDs this season.
Newport Harbor is 5-2 since handing over the reins to former third-string quarterback AJ Guitron-Moore. The 5-foot-11 senior threw two touchdown passes to Kashton Henjum in the Sailors’ victory over Dominguez in the semifinals.
Sophomore Josiah Lamarque scored five touchdowns against Santa Barbara in the second round. Hayden Farley Sr. and sophomore Henry Slater lead the running game.
Carson de Avila is one of Orange County‘s top tacklers and the defense chief for Newport Harbor. Nathan Peters and Grayson Simon are both two-way linemen who are essential to the success of the Sailors.
Sailors have been looking for their first CIF Championship since 2005, when most of today’s players were learning to walk. Over the past few weeks, there has been a resurgence of enthusiasm on campus for the football program and the possibility of adding another championship.
“A lot of people told me after the Dominguez game that they haven’t seen the stadium this electric for a long time,” Lofthouse said. “I hope people are ready to come to the Temecula Valley and bring this energy to us.”