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A classic for the ages

December 04, 2002

Today marks the 10-year anniversary of the 1992 CIF Southern Section Division IV semifinal football game between Newport Harbor

High and Corona del Mar, a clash also known in Newport-Mesa lore as

the Battle of the Bay II.

Though the parade of years sometimes blend together, and games,

plays and players consolidate into the far reaches of my mind's eye,

there are definite memories I hold, not only about the game, but the

week leading up to it.

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The prelude, which included more than a dozen stories and enough

phone interviews to initiate permanent ear cartilage damage, brings

to mind a piece constructed from the thoughts of a local psychic, to

whom I paid an awkward personal visit. The story has mysteriously

disappeared from the Daily Pilot archives, however, and I can't seem

to recall which team the swami selected.

Regarding the game, I recall a surprisingly scant few images, one

of which being the overflow crowd, most likely underestimated at

5,400. I do recall the winning touchdown, scored by Wade Tift, who

dashed 30 yards up the middle with 53 seconds left to break a 21-21

tie.

The most crystal clear mental picture, however, is a seemingly

slow-motion sequence in which Newport Harbor outside linebacker

Justin Ketcham collided with airborne CdM running back Tom Hess,

resulting in a fumble along the southern (home) sideline at the Sea

Kings' 42-yard line. The ball bounced ahead of the pile created by

the tackle and appeared to come to rest just inside the boundary. It

seemed like seconds passed as blue (Newport) and white (CdM) jerseys

gave chase, before Newport cornerback Chris Edwards, crawling on his

hands and knees, finally pounced on the loose ball to set up the

winning touchdown.

It was billed as the greatest game in the then-62-year history of

the Newport program. The Sailors have gone on to win a pair of

section championships, including a 14-0 season in 1994, matching the

two CIF titles CdM captured in back-to-back seasons (1988-89). But,

for sheer hype, atmosphere and anticipation, there has been no game

before or since that matched Newport-Mesa schools with so much at

stake. It was and is, truly, a game to remember.

*

Newport Harbor High boys basketball coach Larry Hirst and Sage

Hill head man Steve Keith have both been practicing their craft for

more than two decades. Yet, this season, separate circumstances have

forced them to take notice of just how complex the coaching process

can be.

Hirst's epiphany came with the arrival of Torrey Pines transfers

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