For the first time in 32 years, the Newport Harbor High football team has a new head coach as it starts a season.
Peter Lofthouse was just a small child when Jeff Brinkley took over the Sailors program in 1986. Now Lofthouse, 37, takes over for Brinkley, who resigned in January, and he said he will be teaching health at Newport Harbor.
Some changes are subtle and some aren’t. The Sailors have new uniforms that read “Sailors” on the front instead of “Newport Harbor,” but the other design changes are minimal. A main one is that the uniforms are tighter than before, Lofthouse said.
The coaching staff is a more obvious change. It’s all new. Lofthouse, previously the head coach at San Diego Mesa College for three years, also is serving as Newport Harbor’s defensive coordinator. Kevin Emerson, who spent the last four years as the Orange Coast College football head coach, is the Sailors’ new offensive coordinator.
Offensive line coach Frank Albers also made the move from OCC to Newport Harbor.
“I love the new coaching staff,” Newport Harbor senior middle linebacker Brian Bailey said. “Obviously, all of the respect goes to the old coaching staff. [Brinkley was] here for 32 years and did incredible things. You look at the stats, and they’re just mind-blowing and your jaw drops. Eight [CIF] championship [game] appearances, three CIF championships. Wow! But this new coaching staff coming in, they work hard, man. They work hard and we work hard … It’s going to be a fun year. It’s a fresh start for everyone.”
Brinkley finished with a 244-130-3 record at Newport Harbor, the win total is the fifth-highest in Orange County history. When Lofthouse is on the sidelines Friday night as the Sailors host Redwood City Sequoia, he will be trying for his first win as a high school coach.
“The primary difference is just having your football team as your student population,” Lofthouse said. “At a community college, you go out and you recruit your guys for your system. Now, we have to take what we’ve got and make an offense and defense that are successful, around their attributes. It’s been fun to implement schemes that fit these players’ skill sets, to have them embrace the hard work, the discipline, the commitment and watch them become successful with it.”
The Sailors didn’t have much success last season, losing their first eight games. They beat Marina and Huntington Beach to end the season 2-8 overall and 2-3 in the Sunset League. In a three-way tie for third place, the Sailors missed the CIF Southern Section playoffs for the third straight year after losing a coin flip to Fountain Valley.
Lofthouse likes the Sailors’ linebackers, led by Bailey, junior Chad Koste and senior Jack Phillips, all of whom return, as well as rising junior Johnny Brigandi. Koste was a first-team All-Sunset League selection last season.
One player who didn’t come back is senior Sam Barela, a two-year starter at quarterback who is focusing on playing basketball this season. Lofthouse said that four players — seniors Rory McCory and Andrew Testa, junior Clay Liolios and sophomore Cole Lavin — are in competition for the starting quarterback spot.
Colin Gregg, a senior, returns at running back for the Sailors.
“It’s definitely an upped ante,” Gregg said of the new coaching staff. “Not a lot of kids in high school go to the next level, and they’re used to working with kids that go to the next level. It pushes us to work harder.”
Senior Ronin Reid returns at receiver for the Sailors. Aidan Goltz, a junior, is another receiver who is making strides, Lofthouse said. Bailey said that Goltz did not play football last year, focusing on lacrosse.
Goltz could be another key piece on what Lofthouse called a junior-heavy team.
“He’s been on fire all summer, camp,” Lofthouse said. “I really think he could be an all-conference kind of kid. He would be the kind of kid who could come in and compete for a starting job at a [junior college], at that level.”
Lofthouse would know. The Sailors also have senior center Dylan Schmitt and senior tackle Landon Gelb returning on the offensive line, while senior defensive end Gabriel Galdamez is the lone returner on the defensive line. Cornerbacks Raphael Cruz and Austin Muro, a senior and junior respectively, enter their second year starting in the secondary along with junior safety Brandon Duffy.
Another change for the Sailors is that the Battle of the Bay rivalry game against Corona del Mar will be later in the season — Oct. 19 at Newport Harbor High. The Sea Kings join the Sunset League this season, so the rivals won’t play until Week 9. More than just pride, playoff berths could be on the line.
CdM has five straight wins in the series.
“It’s just going to step up the hype even more,” Gregg said. “We’ll see. We’re not going to only have two games under our belt [this year] … We’ll be the most prepared that we can.”
Newport Harbor Sailors
CIF Southern Section Division: 7
Coach: Peter Lofthouse (first year)
Staff: Kevin Emerson (offensive coordinator/quarterbacks), Frank Albers (offensive line), John Arredondo (defensive line), Jason Hylland (wide receivers), Max Durante (linebackers), Justin Safford (secondary), Antonio Rossi (defensive line), Ryan Spruth (running backs), Max Spruill (offensive line), Ryan O’Donnell (equipment manager), Rachel Brannigan (trainer).
2017 season: 2-8 overall, 2-3 in the Sunset League (shared third place), missed the CIF Southern Section Division 6 playoffs
Offensive scheme: Spread
Defensive scheme: 3-4
Returning offensive starters: Four
Returning defensive starters: Six
Returning with honors: Jr. LB Chad Koste
24 — vs. Redwood City Sequoia
30 — at Chino Hills
7 — vs. Los Angeles University
14 — vs. Santa Monica at Santa Monica College
21 — at San Marino
28 — vs. Huntington Beach*
5 — vs. Los Alamitos* at Cerritos College
11 — vs. Edison* at Huntington Beach High
19 — vs. Corona del Mar*
26 — vs. Fountain Valley* at Huntington Beach High
*denotes league game