NEWPORT BEACH — The burning question after the Newport Harbor High boys' water polo team advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 1 quarterfinals dealt with the status of senior standout Dan Stevens.
Will Stevens play on Saturday at Corona del Mar in the Battle of the Bay playoff game?
There's no doubt he wants to play even with the danger of a ruptured ear drum in his left ear that kept him out of the Sailors' 13-7 first-round win over Servite on Wednesday.
The big quarterfinal game is on Saturday at CdM, tentatively scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Newport Harbor Coach Robert Lynn knows he won't be able to keep Stevens out of the game.
"Wild horses couldn't keep him away," Lynn said of Stevens, who sustained the ruptured ear drum when he took on a hit from Mater Dei's Jon Walters in a regular-season finale on Saturday.
Stevens wanted to play against the Friars, but he said he was grateful the coach's kept him out for his safety and to let his ear heal. Against the Sea Kings, Lynn plans to be cautious with his use of Stevens, who applied Vaseline and a wax plug to his ear. He said he's been practicing with his team.
"I wanted to play, but I'm really glad the coaches left me out of this one for my best interest," Stevens said. "Fortunately I didn't need to go in this game and the team really played well without me. I'm encouraged by that."
The Sailors (21-6) didn't really need Stevens, who said he is taking medication for the pain from the ruptured ear drum. They built an 8-3 lead before halftime and used a 4-1 run in the third quarter to give way to substitutes and varsity call-ups in the final period.
Andrew Silvers led No. 4-seeded Newport Harbor with three goals, while Mitchell Mendoza, Blake Grove and Curtis Fink added two goals each. Goalie Wyatt Muller made six saves to anchor a strong Sailors defense and gave way to goalies Parker Monroe and Joe Ferraro who played in the final quarter.
There were hardly any negatives for Newport Harbor against Servite.
It was easy for Lynn to turn his focus toward rival CdM (22-6), the No. 5 seed. The teams have split this season, with CdM winning the most recent matchup, 11-6, in the semifinals of the Finis Memorial Cup in San Jose Oct 27.
Newport Harbor did beat the Sea Kings, 9-7, at CdM on Oct. 20.
"It will be an exciting match," Lynn said. "There will be a lot of people in attendance for both sides. Those are the kind of games that, as the kids, you live for. This is the finals. If we want to move on we have to win. This is what we work for and the kids have to want this. I think we are building up for this."
The winner will advance to Wednesday's semifinals at the Woollett Aquatic Center in Irvine and will most likely face top-seeded Mater Dei, the two-time defending champion that has won a Southern Section-record 76 straight matches.