Whenever Newport Harbor High and Los Alamitos meet on a football field, the game always seems to go down to the wire.
Sometimes four quarters isn't enough to decide a winner.
For the second straight year, the Sailors and Griffins went into overtime.
They closed out Sunset League play last year in overtime. This year, they opened league with overtime.
Either way, Newport Harbor has a knack for outlasting Los Alamitos in the close games.
The Sailors rallied for a 27-24 victory in overtime on Thursday night at Davidson Field, handing the Griffins their first setback of the season. The Sailors rushed the field after quarterback Cole Norris threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Cory Stowell to seal the deal.
"We've had some great games with them," said Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley, whose team has defeated the Griffins in six of the last seven years. "[Los Alamitos] Coach [John] Barnes knows how to win. It's always a battle."
Newport Harbor (3-3, 1-0 in league) survived the latest classic against Los Alamitos (5-1, 0-1), upsetting the third-ranked team in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division. A combined 16 points have decided six of the last eight games between the Sailors and Griffins.
When the teams ended regulation knotted at 21-21, Brinkley and Barnes met at midfield for the coin flip, to determine who would go offense or defense first. Brinkley first told Barnes, "Déjà vu."
The experience of coming from behind to win, 31-28, in the league finale against Los Alamitos at Veterans Stadium last year helped Newport Harbor.
"I think [my players] felt like it was the same scenario as last year," said Brinkley, whose team back then clinched second place in league. "We've been here before."
Once the Sailors won the flip, they decided to go on defense, because as Brinkley put it, "You've got to know what you've got to match." All they had to match was three points after Tristan Frembling's successful 22-yard field goal put Los Alamitos ahead, 24-21.
On their first chance on offense in overtime, the Sailors doubled the three points. The offense went to Stowell on a post over the middle and Norris found him in stride for the game-winning score.
Stowell, a senior, finished with seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Norris, who completed 18 of 34 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns, hooked up with Stowell four times after halftime. The last pass play was by design.
"Let's go to it right now because they'll bring the heat if we wait any longer," Brinkley said he told his offense before it went onto the field in overtime.
The play worked and it allowed Brinkley to forget about the two breakdowns on special teams in the third quarter that hurt the Sailors. They allowed Kendall Brownlow to return the second-half kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown. Five minutes later, they allowed Derrick Worthy to block a 20-yard field-goal try.
Los Alamitos regained the lead at 21-14, after the Sailors fought back from a 13-point deficit late in the first half to take a one-point lead into halftime.
The Sailors jumped ahead for the first time because of their defense. In the second quarter, defensive end Brett Beaudette recovered a fumble, Stowell, playing cornerback, intercepted two passes, and defensive back Garrett Hall picked off a pass. Two of the turnovers resulted in Sailor touchdowns and Hall's pick stopped Los Alamitos from scoring right before halftime.
The Sailors got in the Griffins way again at the end.
On a third-and-three play on Newport Harbor's four, linebacker Keaton Cablay deflected quarterback Nick Wendell's pass in the end zone. Cablay, back from missing time because of a concussion, forced the Griffins to settle for a field goal on their first shot on offense in overtime.