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Sailors facing stiff task ahead

October 30, 2003

Patrick Laverty

Sitting two games behind a trio of leaders in the Sea View League and

thus, two games out of an automatic playoff berth, Newport Harbor

High's football team has to understand the importance of Friday's

game against Irvine.

The Vaqueros (6-1, 2-0 in league), ranked fifth in the CIF

Southern Section Division VI poll, are one of the three teams the

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Sailors (5-2, 0-2) are chasing and the quickest way back into the

race would be to knock off one of the leaders.

But the task might be as difficult as any Newport Harbor, which

has lost consecutive league games for the first time since 1998, has

faced this season.

"Getting on track against one of the beat teams in the league and

what has been somewhat of a traditional rival, we've played them so

many times in the regular season and in the finals, it's always a

tough game," Sailors Coach Jeff Brinkley said.

Made tougher by the fact that Harbor will be without junior

quarterback Kasey Peters. His season was ended in last week's loss to

Aliso Niguel when he suffered a broken collarbone in the final

minutes.

Peters had thrown for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns prior to the

injury. Sophomore Tom Jackson will start in his place. He saw his

first varsity action after replacing Peters with 1:36 remaining in

the game, completing 3 of 6 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.

"We've got to find some creative ways of developing the game plan

to take advantage of what Tom does best," Brinkley said.

With a younger and less experienced quarterback, there is little

doubt more of the onus will fall to senior tailback Matt Encinias,

who posted more than 200 yards for the first time in his career last

week. On the season, Encinias has carried 161 times for 911 yards, an

average of 5.7 yards per carry.

Irvine has a top-notch back of its own in junior Jamaal Villa, who

has rushed for 858 yards and scored 13 touchdowns on 97 carries.

Senior quarterback Luke Tracy balances out the offense, having throw

for 868 yards and four touchdowns.

"They're balanced," Brinkley said. "They've got their quarterback

back. He understands the system and plays within the system. We can't

pack it in and we can't detach anybody."

Harbor's defense has played well. Brinkley was happy with the unit

despite last week's loss. They allowed just one sustained drive and

surrendered just 17 points.

Tracy has thrown some poor passes, being intercepted seven times

and a big play by the Sailors defense could turn the tide. Turnovers,

which Brinkley always emphasizes, have been the difference in

Harbor's two losses.

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