By Martin Henderson
Kai Ross has always been known as a dual threat for Huntington Beach, but on Saturday on his biggest stage, he showed he’s at least a triple threat.
Quarterback Ross passed for three touchdowns, led his team in rushing, and returned two interceptions for touchdowns as Huntington Beach completed an improbable run to the Southern Section Southwest Division championship with a 42-28 victory over Newport Harbor at Angel Stadium.
Ross’ 36- and 26-yard interception returns came 10 seconds apart and was part of a 45-second span in which the Oilers turned a tie score into a 42-21 advantage.
Huntington Beach barely qualified for the playoffs. The Oilers finished fifth in the Sunset League, and got an at-large berth only after a 40-14 victory over Newport Harbor in the league finale.
The Oilers made the most of the opportunity.
Score: Huntington Beach 42, Newport Harbor 28
Key Stats: Huntington Beach senior Kai Ross completed 10 of 12 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns, rushed 11 times for 90 yards, and returned two interceptions for scores.
Pivotal Moment: After Newport Harbor had just taken a 21-14 lead, Huntington Beach faced a second-and-10 situation from its 19. Ross threw a screen to Maurice Barber, who took it 64 yards, to the Newport 17. Four plays later, Ross passed 12 yards to Hunter Simmons to tie the score at 21-21 with 11 seconds left in the third quarter. In a flash, the Oilers moved from one end of the field to the other to steal back momentum at a critical point in the game.
Quotable I: “We pinned them in and let them out of the hole,” Newport Harbor coach Jeff Brinkley said of the game’s pivotal play (see above). “If we had made them punt, it might have been a little bit different. They made the plays and we didn’t.”
Quotable II: “Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable,” said Huntington Beach coach Eric Lo of the championship. “Kai Ross is a player.”
Records: Huntington Beach (9-5), Newport Harbor (8-6)Notes: After Huntington Beach tied the score at 21-21, the Oilers scored on their next possession, a 93-yard drive that culminated with Ross’ 52-yard scoring pass to Nolan Thompson with 6:26 left in the game. … Ross returned interceptions 36 and 26 yards for touchdowns over the next three offensive plays by Newport Harbor. … The Sailors closed the scoring when Max Durante returned a blocked punt 6 yards to pull to 42-28. … Huntington Beach took a 7-0 lead on Travis Heer’s 1-yard run late in the first quarter to cap a 92-yard drive. … Cole Norris completed 24 of 38 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns, of 31 yards to Cory Stowell and 9 yards to Keaton Cabley. … The latter gave Newport a 21-14 led with 2:31 left in the third quarter. … Quest Truxton, held to only two receptions when Newport Harbor was beaten by Huntington Beach in the Sunset League finale, 40-14, caught nine passes for 105 yards on Saturday. …
- Roundup of Friday's championship games
- Southern Division Championship: CdM 42, Garden Grove 21
- Inland Division Championship: Centennial 26, Vista Murrieta 12
Huntington Beach rushed 38 times for 182, including Travis Heer’s 1-yard run in the first quarter to give the Oilers a 7-0 lead; Newport rushed the ball 22 times for 47 yards, including Trevor Shaw’s 1-yard run to tie the score at 7-7. … The fourth quarter interceptions by Ross were the only turnovers of the game. … In addition to everything else he did, Ross returned two punts for 15 yards and three kickoffs for 66. … Truxton had 239 all-purpose yards, including his kick and punt returns; Ross had 233, and Maurice Barber 129 on his three receptions. … Ross threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Maurice Barber to tie the score at 14-14, 11 yards to Hunter Simmons to tie the score at 21-21, and 52 yards to Nolan Thompson to lead, 28-21. ... This is Huntington Beach’s first championship since 1935, and first trip to the finals since 1993 when Tony Gonzalez starred as a two-way player for the Oilers. … Newport Harbor, the second-place entry from the Sunset League, was trying to win its fourth title in eight championship appearances. … Huntington Beach, after beating Newport in the league finale, defeated three league champions: second-seeded Yorba Linda, San Juan Hills and third-seeded Edison, 28-21, a game in which it avenged a 48-6 loss on Sept. 11.