7:27 PM PST, February 1, 2013
The Newport-Mesa U8 Friday Night Lights flag football team earned second place in the recent regional tournament held in Temecula.
Coaches Mike Echan and Will O'Connor led their team of 11 boys (six returning starters and five new faces, some who had never played flag football before) to an impressive showing in the preseason all-star tournament.
The boys played four round-robin games against teams from Huntington Beach, Los Alamitos, Murrieta and Temecula. Going into the semifinal game with a 2-1-1 record, they faced the tough HB team that had tied them, 13-13, the first time. The Newport-Mesa boys dominated the rematch with a 25-12 victory before losing to the undefeated Temecula team in the finals.
On offense, the Newport-Mesa boys were led by quarterback Ryan Smith, who threw over 110 passes, including 14 touchdown passes, during the six games, and had only two interceptions.
Eric Hodgkins had 16 receptions and 4 touchdowns, Ethan Echan had 13 receptions and five TDs (including one rushing TD), Mason Baumann had nine receptions and four TDs and Ashton Hurley had three receptions, one TD reception and one rushing TD.
Noah Wickett ran for two TDs and Jacob Jurczyk had three receptions with one TD.
The Newport-Mesa defense was very tight giving up only 11 points per game until the championship.
Rushers Collin O'Connor and Max Kearl kept the opposing quarterback under tremendous pressure and cornerbacks Charlie Nielsen and Ethan Okumura deflected several pass attempts by the opponents.
Some of the offensive players competed on defense as well, and became the INT (Interception) Crew. Mason Baumann had four interceptions, Ashton Hurley had two interceptions including a pick-six (interception returned for a TD) and Ryan Smith had a pick-six.
With only two practices going into this tournament, the Newport-Mesa boys performed superbly amid cool, rainy conditions.
— Reader submission