Dunn: Scholarship remember standout Sailors

One of the oldest high schools in Orange County, Newport Harbor, has some of the most prestigious annual scholarships for deserving senior football players.

On the heels of a season pushed back several months and shortened by the coronavirus pandemic, great appreciation was acknowledged in the form of six in-house scholarships at Harbor, which opened its doors in 1930. It is the ninth-oldest high school in Orange County, following Santa Ana (1889), Fullerton (1893), Anaheim (1898), Orange (1903), Huntington Beach (1905), Garden Grove (1921), Tustin (1921) and Brea Olinda (1926).

There will be fallen soldiers when you’ve been around as long as the Sailors. A few are revered every football postseason, culminating in the Vincent D. Mulroy Scholarship and the John Gust Athletic Scholarship.

Rick John, Mulroy’s friend and former Newport Harbor teammate, Mulroy’s sister, Kate Sperring, and Sailors Coach Peter Lofthouse awarded standout Justin McCoy with this season’s 12th Vincent D. Mulroy Scholarship, while wide receiver James Crowell earned the John Gust Athletic Scholarship.

McCoy, an elusive 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back, enjoyed a stellar junior year when the Sailors (9-4) advanced to the 2019 CIF Southern Section Division 9 semifinals, a season in which they started 7-0 for the first time since 1994. The leading statistical running back in the area, McCoy carried 260 times for 1,249 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns and caught 47 passes for 472 yards and four touchdowns from Harbor quarterbacks Cole Lavin and Nick Kim, earning Sunset League Co-Offensive Back of the Year.

In a pandemic-shortened senior year, McCoy rushed for 397 yards on 67 carries in four games, an average of 99.3 yards per contest and 5.9 yards per carry, meriting second-team All-Sunset League.

The Mulroy Scholarship includes $1,500 toward college tuition and is presented to the graduating offensive player who has demonstrated the highest level of athleticism, citizenship and academics at Newport Harbor. Launched by friends and former teammates, the scholarship began after Mulroy’s untimely death in 2009.

Mulroy (Class of 1975) played wide receiver on Newport Harbor’s back-to-back Sunset League championship teams in 1973 and ’74 as the Tars reached the quarterfinals both seasons in the CIF Division 1 playoffs.

Mulroy twice earned All-Sunset League, All-Orange County and first-team All-CIF accolades. In track and field, Mulroy still holds school records in the decathlon, varsity mile relay and frosh/soph 440-yard relay. He was voted track MVP in 1975.

Mulroy continued his football career at Stanford, where he earned Academic All-American under Coach Bill Walsh, who later coached the San Francisco 49ers to three Super Bowl wins. Mulroy’s status as a Pac-8 athlete made him a positive influence as a “big brother” to at-risk youth in the Palo Alto area. Upon graduating in 1979, the Stanford Alumni Association presented Mulroy with its first J. Wallace Sterling Award “for his tireless and thoughtful efforts as director of the Stanford Volunteers for Youth Program and on behalf of disadvantaged young people everywhere; for leadership qualities and sensitivity he has brought to Stanford activities, athletics, and all he undertakes; and for those truly remarkable capacities as organizer, motivator, student, counselor and friend which his work and life represent.”

The Gust Scholarship is a publicly supported memorial established in 1973 to honor John Gust (Class of ’74), an outstanding football player and wrestler who was killed in an auto accident on a skiing trip after his senior football season, in which he achieved All-Sunset League, All-Orange County and merited the Sailors’ Most Improved Player Award. The recipient receives a plaque and $500 scholarship toward college expenses.

Other Newport Harbor scholarship winners: Greg Gladstone Memorial Scholarship, Spencer O’Bryan; Cade Feitler Athletic Scholarship, Cade Parks; Coach Mike Giddings Scholarship, Chris Jover; and Kamble Chai Foundation, Matthew Osborne and Tim Tizon.

Richard Dunn, a longtime sportswriter, writes the Dunn Deal column regularly for The Orange County Register’s weekly, The Coastal Current North.

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