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
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.