Los Alamitos' Keanu Norman returns a kickoff in the second quarter of Thursday's win over Newport Harbor. (Photo by Matt Masin, Orange County Register, SCNG)

Norman helps put Los Alamitos in good spot


LONG BEACH – Sophomore Keanu Norman delivered the big plays Los Alamitos needed Thursday to qualify for a playoff berth.

The swift running back scored four first-half touchdowns, including a 98-yard kickoff return, to help the No. 11 Griffins clinch second place in the Sunset League with a 41-28 victory against No. 19 Newport Harbor at Veterans Stadium.

First-year Los Alamitos coach Ray Fenton said he believes the Griffins (7-3, 4-1) will be announced Sunday as part of a loaded 16-team field for the Division 3 playoffs. The division, with 19 teams for 16 spots, includes the Sunset’s Edison among several league champions.

“We felt we had to win tonight (to make CIF),” Fenton said. “We were nervous.”

Norman carried the ball 29 times for 204 yards and added 198 yards in kickoff returns to finish with 402 all-purpose yards to win a duel with Newport Harbor senior running back Cole Kinder.

“Keanu, I think as a sophomore, felt like maybe (he could) emulate that guy a little bit,” Fenton said of Norman, who scored on runs of 7, 4 and 16 yards. “In league, he has done a great job for us.”

Kinder rushed for 158 yards and scored three touchdowns, including an 82-yard kickoff return for a score.

Newport Harbor (5-5, 3-2) will finish as the third seed from the Sunset League but isn’t a lock to qualify for the playoffs in Division 6. The division features 22 teams for 16 spots and entering Thursday only three teams looked like they would be easy to eliminate.

Newport Harbor coach Jeff Brinkley said before the game that his team’s playoff chances were “50-50” to qualify if it lost against Los Alamitos.

“We’re going to have to have some things happen (to make CIF),” Brinkley said. “Our schedule has been strong. … We’re kind of in limbo.”

Kinder, Newport Harbor’s all-time leading rusher, finished with 278 all-purpose yards. “He’s a horse,” Brinkley said

Los Alamitos quarterback Hayden Smith tossed TDs to Zack Ruiz and Drew Platt. Platt also added a sack on defense. Norman’s four TDs helped Los Alamitos open a 35-21 lead at halftime.

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