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Norris steps up for Sailors

Daily Pilot High School Football Player of the Week

Sophomore, making first varsity start, throws game-winning TD on fourth down to lead Newport Harbor past CdM, 27-26, in Battle of the Bay.

September 20, 2012|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza
(Kevin Chang | Daily…)

Cole Norris couldn't even win the Mini Battle of the Bay as a freshman at Newport Harbor High last year.

In the varsity rivalry game last week, the Sailors turned to the sophomore to lead the way.

Yeah, you bet the quarterback was a little nervous. You would have been as well. Norris' first start on varsity came in the biggest football game in town, the Battle of the Bay against Corona del Mar.

He stepped in for Zach Wade, the injured starting quarterback. Coaches always told Norris he was one play away from proving he can play on this level.

The backup got his chance in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,000 at Davidson Field.

With less than three minutes left, there was Norris with a shot to engineer a game-winning drive. The task – drive the team 95 yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

The Sailors gave the keys to their offense to a 15-year-old, who walks home from school. Before Norris walked back on the field, with his team down five points, one of his former lower-level coaches said something to him.

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"He just kept telling me he believed in me and he knew I could do it, and just to lead the team," Norris said of Kirk Norton. "He was with me every step."

The Sailors and the home fans stood by Norris throughout.

His nervousness from the start seemed to fade. Tailback Talalelei Teaupa checked, just to make sure. He asked Norris, "Are you ready?" Teaupa said he could tell the quarterback was prepared because he was his usual quiet and humble self.

Norris was ready to experience what Coach Jeff Brinkley said to him and the rest of the Sailors before the final play of a 17-play drive.

"Get ready to have the celebration of your life," Brinkley said during a timeout.

"We had to stay positive … and make sure they believed it was going to happen."

Based on what the Sailors faced, it would be easy for them to believe they had no chance. They were in a fourth-and-goal situation on the Sea Kings' 22 with 31 seconds left to play.

The odds looked stacked against Newport Harbor. With one play left, Brinkley just asked Norris to give one of his wide receivers a chance to make a play.

The unlikeliest of targets that night made that play.

Norris decided to pass to Cory Stowell for the first time. Norris said he never saw whether Stowell caught the pass in the end zone because a defender hit Norris.

"I just kind of like threw the ball where he was supposed to be," Norris said of Stowell, who ran an outside post and managed to get behind the coverage.

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