Star's future in limbo with Tars

This summer was supposed to be Cedric Whitaker's first full one with the Newport Harbor High football team.

The running back's summer with the Sailors did not last long.

While the Sailors on Thursday wrapped up their final practice until mid-August, Whitaker spent the day in Oakland, where he said he has been for the last seven weeks. Whitaker, a first-team All-Sunset League pick last season, said he left the team in June because he did not have a place to stay in Newport Beach during the summer.

Whitaker said he plans to be in Newport Beach next month, when his cousin, Paul Simpson, comes back to town from a business trip.

If Whitaker returns next month to live with Simpson, he still might not have a football team to play for in the upcoming season. He is aware of the possibility of last season being his final one in high school.

Whitaker said he is in the process of filing a request for a hardship waiver with the CIF Southern Section in hopes to allow him as a fifth-year senior to play football at Newport Harbor in the fall. When Whitaker transferred to Newport Harbor last school year from Emery of Emeryville, he said it was his fourth year of high school.

Newport Harbor Athletic Director Mike Zimmerman said the Newport-Mesa Unified School District reclassified Whitaker as a junior after the 2009 football season, when Whitaker rushed for 1,003 yards and totaled 12 touchdowns. Zimmerman said Whitaker's family went to the district and appealed his status as a senior.

"I stayed back," said Whitaker, who did not give a reason as to why he was held back a year in high school.

"I'll be back."

The 18-year-old Whitaker said he is optimistic that he will get to play football for a second time in high school. In his first season, he helped the Sailors (6-5) reach the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs and finish in second place in the Sunset League.

Back in May, Coach Jeff Brinkley said some Pacific 10 Conference schools showed interest in the elusive 5-foot-8, 170-pounder, who earned the Newport-Mesa Dream Team Offensive Player of the Year honor last season.

Thom Simmons, a CIF Southern Section spokesperson, said an e-mail that an approved hardship by the section can be the only way a fifth-year senior is granted eligibility.

Zimmerman said he was unaware of Whitaker's plan to file a hardship waiver. He added the sooner a player does before the school year, the better are his or her chances of being eligible to play sports.

"I've heard about situations like this," said Zimmerman, who before taking over as the athletic director at Newport Harbor last year served in the same capacity at Baldwin Park for 18 years. "Each one has to be measured on its own merit. I think the CIF does a good job. It's a no-win situation for the CIF. I think they are fair."

Whitaker said he has not kept in touch with Brinkley or anyone else involved with the Newport Harbor program since he left.

Whitaker's lone appearance this summer was at the Sailors' first passing event on June 10. The absences haven't removed Whitaker from the team.

"Jeff Brinkley and I have talked often and that has not been something that's been brought up," Zimmerman said of Whitaker being kicked off the team. "Our main concern is to make sure that he graduates."

Zimmerman said Whitaker was going to summer school because he might have been behind on credits.

Whitaker is hoping the Sailors haven't left him behind.

"They're going to probably be upset" that I was gone for so long, said Whitaker, who believes if he's granted a fifth year of eligibility Brinkley will give him a chance to rejoin the Sailors, despite missing time in the summer.

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