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Battling spirit keeps Newport Harbor alive and well
At times this season, the outlook didn't look bright for the Newport Harbor football team, but that's not how things are now.
The Sailors opened the season with consecutive losses and lost starting quarterback Zach Wade.
After defeating Corona del Mar and San Clemente, the Sailors again hit a skid, dropping their final nonleague game against Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach and their Sunset League opener against Edison.
However, the Sailors closed the season with four consecutive victories, including last week's 31-28 victory over Los Alamitos that clinched second place in the Sunset League.
"Our kids just kept battling," Newport Harbor coach Jeff Brinkley said. "The young sophomore quarterback (Cole Norris) stepped up and has played great. He gets better every week.
"It has really been a team effort. Last week we lost two more starters going into Los Alamitos, but a couple more sophomores stepped in and somehow we keep winning."
Norris has helped keep the Sailors alive. He closed the regular season by completing 24 of 31 passes for 343 yards and four touchdowns. Twelve of those passes went to Quest Truxton who turned them into 215 yards and four touchdowns.
"He has a personality that's very calm and that's how he plays," Brinkley said of Norris. "He plays very poised. Even when people put pressure on him, he's able to step up (in the pocket) and make a throw. His maturity is probably beyond his years."
For the season, Norris has completed 96 of 156 passes (61.5 percent) for 1,270 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions.
The Sailors will be host to Troy in a first-round Southwest Division game Friday at 7 p.m.
• Ben Sukut proved that you're never too young to get into the record books.
Sukut, a freshman from Capistrano Valley Christian, intercepted four passes in Thursday's 55-14 victory over Southlands Christian of Walnut.
What he did with the interceptions is the important part. He returned all four for touchdowns (102, 33, 30 and 46 yards), which is believed to tie a national record.
According to the National High School Sports record book, Mike Galliger of West Central of South Dakota also returned four interceptions for touchdowns in a season.
Three of Sukut's TDs came in the second quarter, breaking the record for interception returns for touchdowns in a quarter. Six players had held that mark with two.
He didn't play a snap in the second half.
"He's a real quality football player," Capistrano Valley Christian coach Dan Dodd said. "He's a special athlete. I think at the end of the day, he's going to be a national recruit."
Sukut also added a rushing touchdown in the victory.
This season Sukut has completed two passes for 24 yards and a touchdown, he has two rushing touchdowns and he has 76 receptions for 1,077 yard and 10 scores.
On defense he has 51 tackles and six interceptions.
• Here are some location and time updates for the first round of playoff games: Edison will be host to Esperanza at Orange Coast College at 7 p.m. Friday, and the Santa Ana Valley-Segerstrom game will start at 7 p.m.
The Mission Viejo-Westlake game will start at 7 p.m. El Toro will be host to Santa Margarita at Trabuco Hills High.
Corona del Mar's home game against Anaheim will be played Thursday at 7 p.m. at Newport Harbor High.
The Loara-Laguna Beach and Estancia-Los Amigos games will start at 7 p.m., both on Friday.
In the Southwest Division, Laguna Hills-Foothill game will be played Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Yorba Linda-Villa Park game will start at 7 p.m. Friday.
La Habra will play host to Los Alamitos Friday night at 7 p.m.
• Mater Dei's JC Genova filled up another stat sheet in a victory over Servite on Friday.
Genova recorded eight tackles, two for loss, one sack, one pass break-up and two quarterback hurries.
• My top 10 vote this week: 1. Mission Viejo; 2. Mater Dei; 3. Edison; 4. Tustin; 5. El Toro; 6. Santa Margarita; 7. Villa Park; 8. Foothill; 9. Tesoro; 10. La Habra.