NEWPORT BEACH — The defensive coordinator wasn't there Thursday night for the Newport Harbor High football team.
Tony Ciarelli was in the hospital recovering from successful knee surgery, Coach Jeff Brinkley said. He expects to be back at practice Monday.
The Sailors defense, however, didn't skip a beat.
Newport Harbor had two interceptions and posted its first shutout of the season in a 41-0 Sunset League victory over Marina at Newport Harbor High. It was a must-win game for the Sailors, who can clinch a CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff berth by defeating Fountain Valley next week.
"We played great defense again," Brinkley said of a unit that has allowed seven points in the last two league games. "It's a good win for us. We needed it. Now we control our own destiny next week. We don't have to worry about who beats who; we have to win to get in the playoffs."
The Sailors came into the game against last-place Marina (3-6, 0-4) without any points over their last two games. They didn't waste time Thursday night.
On Newport Harbor's first play from scrimmage, quarterback Austin Rios hit receiver Kellon Truxton on a quick pass. Truxton broke a diving tackle and was gone, scoring 75 yards later to give the Sailors a 7-0 lead.
Newport scored again on its third drive after starting with good field position. The home team went 52 yards in eight plays, capping the drive on Rios' 10-yard touchdown toss to Truxton.
Midway through the second quarter, Rios was already six for seven for 133 yards, and Truxton had already accumulated 114 receiving yards and two scores.
"I thought Rios threw a couple of nice balls," Brinkley said. "Any time we can do both [rushing and passing], we need that kind of balance."
The Vikings briefly got momentum later in the quarter, recovering a fumble at the Newport Harbor 46-yard line. But Sailors senior Parker Norton ended said momentum on the next play, intercepting a pass and returning it 59 yards for another touchdown.
The defense, which was led by linebackers coach Matt Burns on Thursday in Ciarelli's absence, didn't give in after halftime. Sophomore defensive back Landon Gyulay had the final blow against the Vikings, intercepting a long pass with less than two minutes left in the game.
"We played together as a defense," said senior linebacker Blair Luchs, who had several bone-crushing hits, none bigger than one on a Marina player near the sideline on a punt return. "We came together as a unit. We've been practicing hard all week, especially off the two losses. We were ready for this game."
The Sailors continued putting points on the board as well. Norton scored on a pass from Rios, and senior Drew Diller and sophomore Tala Teaupa scored on runs.
Newport Harbor hopes to have Ciarelli back against Fountain Valley. Brinkley said Ciarelli already had knee replacement surgeries on both knees during the off-season and Thursday's surgery was a result of a complication in one knee.
Newport Harbor 41, Marina 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Marina 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 — 0
Newport Harbor 7 – 14 – 14 – 6 — 41