Newport Harbor High senior Zach Wade opened the season at the Sailors' quarterback. (KEVIN CHANG, Daily Pilot / August 16, 2012)

Last week saw the return of Zach Wade, Newport Harbor High's starting quarterback at the beginning of the football season.

He didn't play against Huntington Beach, but he was in his game uniform for the first time since breaking his foot in the second game of the year.

"He's still not 100%, but he is moving around now. It's good to have him back," Coach Jeff Brinkley said.

"If it would've been an emergency, we could've put him in."

That call almost came against Huntington Beach.

The Sailors looked in danger of losing a crucial Sunset League home game. They fell behind, 14-0, in the first quarter.

Newport Harbor's first five drives went nowhere. They ended like this: turnover, punt, punt, punt and punt.

A second loss in league and Newport Harbor was in jeopardy of missing the playoffs for the first time in four years.

But sophomore quarterback Cole Norris, who took over for Wade, rallied the Sailors once again.

Norris threw two touchdown passes and ran for one, all in the final three quarters as Newport Harbor won, 20-17.

Two games in league are left for Newport Harbor (4-4, 2-1 in league), ranked No. 8 in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division. While Wade has been out, Brinkley has said the starting job was Wade's when he returned from his injury.

Sitting Norris now might be tough.

With Norris starting at quarterback, the Sailors are 4-2, more importantly 2-1 in league. They share second place in league with Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach, and trail first-place Edison by one game.

It probably won't matter who is the Sailors' signal caller Thursday, when Newport Harbor plays host to lowly Marina (3-5, 0-3) at 7 p.m. The Vikings have dropped their last 38 league games, their last league win coming eight years ago.

If the Sailors beat Marina, they move closer to clinching one of the league's three automatic berths into the Southwest Division playoffs. They would have at least two more games after Marina, the league finale against Los Alamitos on Nov. 1 and a first-round playoff game a week later.

Who starts at quarterback in those two contests for Newport Harbor will be interesting.

"I'm not sure," Brinkley said, referring to when Wade will return to the field. "We're just kind of seeing this thing one day at a time. It was good just to get him out [last] week and getting him moving around and doing some things."

Norris has said he's just filling in for Wade, a senior.

But Norris has shown he can do more than just handle the job, throwing for 883 yards and nine touchdowns, with only four interceptions. He is completing close to 57% of his passes.

"I thought Norris played well again," Brinkley said after his quarterback threw for 148 yards and two touchdowns on 12-of-21 passing against the Oilers. "He's a competitor and he played very poised for a sophomore."