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Bravehearts, Newport Harbor Linebackers: Big Blue Wrecking Crew

November 08, 2000

Barry Faulkner

One would think Newport Harbor High middle linebacker Alan Saenz

would have no use for quarterbacks. But former quarterbacks are a

different matter.

Two of the latter, in fact, flank Saenz to form the three-man Sailor

linebacking corps.

With Chris Manderino, who started 14 varsity games at quarterback, and

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Andy Rankin, who quarterbacked the freshman team three seasons ago, the

trio has helped make things difficult for opposing signal callers and

running backs, alike.

By design, the linebackers make the majority of the tackles for the

Sailors and this Big Blue Wrecking Crew, which averages 6-foot-2, 227

pounds, has taken that responsibility to heart.

Teams are averaging just 92 rushing yards and 13.4 points against the

Sailors, who enter the final week of the regular season 7-2, 2-1 in

league, and primed to make their 15th postseason appearance in the last

19 years.

In a 35-24 nonleague victory at Cathedral City Friday, the senior trio

helped shut down the Lions, until they scored two touchdowns in the final

12 seconds. The two late touchdowns, including a 53-yard bomb as time

expired, cut into what would have been a thorough stifling of a Lion

squad that came in averaging nearly 36 points.

Their outstanding play, however, has not been a surprise to Coach Jeff

Brinkley.

"With Alan (All-CIF and the Newport-Mesa District Defensive Player of

the Year in 1999) and Chris (the Daily Pilot Sea View League MVP a year

ago) coming back, there were some high expectations for this group,"

Brinkley said. "And Andy had shown the year before he could do the job

(with some quality time spelling Manderino and then-senior Mike Tunney)."

Versatility has been the key for the threesome, the biggest cumulative

set of 'backers in Brinkley's 15-year tenure.

"Chris obviously plays well in space and Andy started out in our

program as a quarterback-defensive back, so we knew he could move

around," Brinkley said. "And Alan has been a big surprise this year, in

terms of how well he's been able to move.

"In our system, you've got to have linebackers who can run a little

and these guys have done a real good job getting to the football."

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