HUNTINGTON BEACH — The Newport Harbor High football team scored a game-winning touchdown in the final seconds earlier this season to defeat arch-rival Corona del Mar. Friday night, it got to experience how the other side of the ball lives with receivers flooding the end zone and the clock dwindling to nothing.
And the Sailors lived to celebrate, after senior Talalelei Teaupa batted down a fourth-down pass in the end zone as time expired to preserve a 21-14 Sunset League victory over host Fountain Valley at Huntington Beach High.
Fountain Valley (3-4, 0-2 in league), which took over at midfield with 1:42 left and trailing by seven, had first and goal at the Sailors' one-yard line with 30 seconds left. A procedure penalty backed the Barons up to the six and four incomplete passes followed to vault Newport Harbor (3-4, 1-1) out of the bottom of the league standings and into the hunt for a CIF playoff berth.
"It was a huge game for both teams," Sailors Coach Jeff Brinkley said. "Because we were both 0-1 in the league. We needed to come out and get a win tonight to get back in the hunt."
That Teaupa was back in the lineup was a bit of a relief for the Sailors, who saw him carted off the field on Oct. 4 with a bruised kidney. The senior tailback, who had 94 of his 125 rushing yards by halftime, was nursed back to health all week, Brinkley said.
"He didn't practice the first two days this week and Wednesday, he practiced with a red jersey on, so he had no contact. Thursday he went through the walk through, but our intention was for him to play."
And play he did, bolting 44 yards for a touchdown on his fourth carry to open the scoring with 7:29 left in the first quarter.
Teaupa carried 10 times for 38 yards on the Tars' 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive that doubled their lead with 4:54 left in the first half. Teaupa twice moved the chains with power runs on third down as the visitors had four third-down conversions on the march.
Sophomore quarterback Cole Norris capped the drive by connecting with Quest Truxton on a 30-yard fade route on third-and-five to create a 14-0 edge.
Fountain Valley answered with a 13-play, 80-yard procession of its own, capped with a five-yard touchdown pass from Chris d'Entremont to Wyatt Christensen with 25 seconds left before halftime.
The Barons drove to the Sailors' 20 on eight plays late in the third quarter, but a jarring tackle separated a Barons' back from the ball and sophomore outside linebacker Keaton Cablay recovered to end the Fountain Valley threat.
On the ensuing possession, Newport was forced to punt and Christensen blocked it. Ricky Reyes recovered at the 15-yard line and after temporarily freezing, followed an escort of teammates into the end zone for the tying touchdown with 41 seconds left in the third quarter. But the score was not tied for long.
On the second play of the ensuing possession, Norris lofted a perfectly-placed bomb to Landon Gyulay, who finished the 65-yard scoring hookup to put the visitors back on top, 21-14, as the third quarter expired.
The Tars' defense appeared to win the game when the Barons turned the ball over on downs with 2:41 left after reaching the Newport Harbor 41.
But Newport went three-and-out, allowing the hosts one final chance.
The Barons moved 50 yards to the one on back-to-back completions with 30 seconds left, but couldn't finish the job.
Norris completed eight of 14 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, while senior middle linebacker Marty Taylor was a stalwart for the Sailors' defense.
Senior end Armani Johnson and junior end Emmanuel Jogwe had sacks for the Sailors, who also received strong defensive work from linebackers Derek Kula and Riley Gaddis, as well as cornerbacks Truxton and Cory Stowell and safeties Gyulay and Garrett Hall.
Christensen finished with 116 yards on 18 rushing attempts and caught four passes for 42 yards.
d'Entremont threw for 121 yards, completing 12 of 28.