The Newport Harbor Sailors are the Sunset League champions for the second consecutive year. Head coach Mark Todd and his team have now won 22 consecutive league games dating back to April 4, 2014 when Los Alamitos beat the Sailors 19-9. The Sailors recovered from that drubbing by starting their current league win streak and even exacted their revenge with an 11-8 victory over Los Al later that season. Such resiliency has become a hallmark of the Sailors’ program.
As they have for the past three years, the Sailors put that resiliency to work this season. Although this season ended in success for Newport Harbor, it did not start out that way. The Sailors struggled to score goals early in the season and lost their first five games.
Despite the struggles the team remained confident As Coach Todd explains early season challenges are part of the master plan. “The past three seasons have been scheduled by design. We always schedule the most challenging teams as possible to not only build up our strength of schedule but to have us playing faster buy time we got into league play. We are willing to play any good team and only lost our first four games this season by a combined 5 points which were frustrating to the boys considering they were so close. Expect the other Sunset League teams to schedule similarly in the years ahead. The Sunset League is loaded with athletic teams and it’s a very physically demanding league. While it has not yet fielded a CIF Championship Team, I think that is only a matter of time because most of the teams within the league had late starts in developing feeder programs combined with some initial resistance at administrative levels that are now becoming more receptive, if not, at least tolerant.”
A back injury to sophomore Joe Fuller contributed to the early season woes. Fuller the only returning attackman on the roster debuted with 50 points (25g, 25a) as a freshman. Although he tried to play through a back injury this season, he was unable to perform at the same level as last season and eventually had to take more recovery time. Such production is not easy to replace but once again the Sailors proved resilient. Senior Dane Flinn, a returning first line midfielder, moved up to the attack position and responded admirably. Todd says “Dane was our leading scorer and he made the winning shot in overtime against Los Alamitos.’
Todd also acknowledged the importance of goalie John Jasper, saying Jasper “was perhaps even more key to us remaining undefeated in the Sunset League for two consecutive season by making a tremendous save off of the overtime face-off in that same game just prior to Flinn’s scores”
Todd is extremely proud of the group of seniors that started out with a 6-12 season their freshman year and notes that they have all contributed to the team’s success. “We are graduating 18 seniors, not all of them are starters but all are scholars. This class has the highest collective GPA since the senior class prior to their entry from the 8th grade into Newport Harbor. They are incredible gentlemen that truly honor the game. They exhibited tremendous sportsmanship and victory with honor. Five are Eagle scouts and almost all of them plan to continue to play at their respective colleges, so they are no strangers to dedication, determination, self-discipline and hard work. I’m certain they’ll all go on to be outstanding citizens which is a tremendous credit to their parents.”
And how will Todd remember the seniors that turned Newport Harbor into Sunset League mini dynasty? “This senior class will be remembered as the originators of our first FROSH team at NHHS and the overall team I feel will eventually prove to be the turning point in the future of NHHS’s post-season play moving forward because we now have a steady pipeline of kids (35 incoming freshman) that have all played lacrosse prior to high school.”