High School Football: Sailors different in playoffs

Newport Harbor has turned up its game in the postseason to reach CIF Southern Section Southwest Division final.

December 05, 2013|By David Carrillo PeƱaloza

Any time the Newport Harbor High football team holds a practice on Thanksgiving, the Sailors are in for a treat.

Players from the past returned to campus last week and spoke to the team. It has been a tradition under Coach Jeff Brinkley to bring back alumni. The day they come is the day before the Sailors play in the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The message players like Chris Manderino give is easy. Enjoy this moment because it will be the best time of your life.

The Sailors tend to respond afterward, keeping their season alive, as they're 8-2 in the semifinals under Brinkley. His team gets to compete one more time.

Manderino has been on this stage before, his last time 13 years ago. Now it's these current Sailors turn to experience the big game.


The Sailors are making their eighth section finals appearance in Brinkley's 28 years at the helm. They face Huntington Beach in the Southwest Division final at Angel Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.

The afternoon game is different for Brinkley and the Sailors. They're used to playing under the lights and in a smaller venue.

What they are familiar with is the opponent on the field. For the second time this season, the Sailors (8-5) and Oilers (8-5) will meet.

The first time Huntington Beach won in a 40-14 rout. Brinkley walked off the field disappointed, his team unable to share the Sunset League title. That night in Huntington Beach on Nov. 8, he never figured to see the Oilers again this year, not after the two teams closed out the regular season.

"I didn't think they would get in [the playoffs], not because I didn't think they were a good football team," said Brinkley, whose team shared second place with Fountain Valley and Los Alamitos, while Huntington Beach placed fifth in the six-team league. "I thought that they wouldn't get in [as an at-large team] because I've never seen them take two at-large teams from the same league."

That same league has two teams in the Southwest Division championship.

Losing out on a Sunset League crown might have been the best thing to happen to the Sailors. Since suffering their worst loss of the season, the Sailors are playing their best football.

Newport Harbor has won three in a row, beating the likes of Dana Hills, 32-13, on the road in the first round, upsetting top-seeded La Habra, 49-48, at home in the quarterfinals and then knocking off Fullerton, 28-17, at home in the semifinals. The winning streak is the Sailors' longest this year.

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