MISSION VIEJO — Seemingly every time the Newport Harbor High football team shot itself in the foot Friday night, host Trabuco Hills appeared intent on giving the Sailors another leg up. Finally, however, the Sailors ran out of chances in a 35-20 season-opening loss to the Mustangs, who improved to 2-0 with the nonleague triumph.
Newport Harbor had answered Trabuco Hills' 15-play, 76-yard scoring drive with the opening kickoff to pull even at 7-7 late in the first quarter.
But back-to-back miscues helped the Mustangs score a pair of touchdowns in a 51-second span midway through the second quarter to take a 21-7 lead.
Newport Harbor, which relied heavily on its passing attack, closed to within 21-14 on junior quarterback Cole Norris' second touchdown pass to senior Quest Truxton with 3:50 left in the first half. And that's how it remained until the hosts capitalized on yet another Newport Harbor error to up the lead to 14.
Trabuco appeared on its way to significantly draining the clock when it inexplicably threw a pass on third-and-four from its own 26-yard line late in the game. But Truxton intercepted and returned the ball to the 18-yard line with 1:28 remaining.
On the next snap, Norris found senior Cory Stowell in the end zone and, after the conversion went wrong due to a faulty snap, the Sailors, down 28-20, were within a successful onside kick of having a chance to tie the score.
Trabuco Hills recovered the apparent onside kick, but the whistle to start play had not been blown by the officials, so the Sailors got another chance. This time Michael Schultz bounded the ball high into the air on the second bounce and senior Garrett Hall fielded it after it deflected off a Mustang at the Newport Harbor 45-yard line with 1:19 remaining.
After Norris' flat pass to Riley Gaddis moved the ball 12 yards, into Trabuco Hills territory, however, Mustangs senior defensive back Sam Smith intercepted and returned it 60 yards for the clinching score with 51 seconds left.
Norris, a second-year starter who completed his first seven pass attempts Friday, finished 20 of 35 for 226 yards and three touchdowns passing.
Truxton, a first-team All-Sunset League performer as a junior, had eight of his nine catches in the first half. He finished with 129 receiving yards, including scoring catches of 14 and 33 yards.
Stowell, who had just three receptions at halftime, wound up with eight catches for 75 yards, including the aforementioned 18-yard scoring strike from Norris.
The Sailors, however, struggled on the ground as 24 attempts, including an errant punt snap that set up Trabuco Hills' second touchdown, amounted to just four yards rushing.
The errant punt snap gave the Mustangs possession at the Sailors' 30 and they scored seven plays later.
On the first snap after the ensuing kickoff, Newport Harbor fumbled the center-quarterback exchange and Trabuco's David Stobbe recovered at the Tars' 27.
On the ensuing snap, Trabuco Hills senior quarterback Tommy Kelley hit junior Jacob Breeland in the end zone.
A pass-interference penalty by the Sailors nullified a diving interception in the end zone two plays before a one-yard scoring run gave Trabuco Hills its 28-14 lead.
Additionally, the Tars committed a crucial encroachment penalty on third down to give the Mustangs a first down on the hosts' initial scoring drive.
Stowell had an interception and Truxton returned three punts for 71 yards and one kickoff for 42 yards.
Trabuco Hills 35, Newport Harbor 20