League landscapes altered

The Sunset League will have one of its original high school football teams back and it will affect the strength of the league.

Huntington Beach returns to the 73-year-old league this fall after it left five years ago, right before Newport Harbor rejoined. Gone is Esperanza, which starting in 2005 won or shared the league title for four straight years.

Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley said the switch does not really matter to him. The Sailors have been competitive in the Sunset League the past four years, finishing 3-2 every time and two years ago they split the league crown.

"We had played Esperanza tough," said Brinkley, whose Sailors went 3-1 against the Aztecs from 2006 to 2009. "[The Aztecs are] a good program [that is now in the Century League] and I know Huntington's a good program. Huntington's a team that's been on the rise the last couple of years. After going in [the Sea View League], I think they kind of got their legs back under them and got a little more stability.

"[The Oilers] have been in this league before. They know what it's all about. I think it's advantageous for them knowing the league so well."

The Sunset League has not been kind to Huntington Beach.

The Oilers own the second longest league winless streak in Orange County. From 1975 to 1982, Huntington Beach went 0-33-1.

Since the Oilers last won the league championship in 1993, they have finished dead last nine times during a 12-year span.

Huntington Beach was far more competitive in the Sea View League the previous four years. The Oilers' best finish was 3-2, which they recorded twice, good enough for third place in the six-team league and a berth into the CIF Southern Section Southwest playoffs.

Reaching the postseason will be much more arduous in a league with Edison, Los Alamitos and Newport Harbor. Brinkley learned how hard it is to make the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs. The Sailors have advanced only twice since coming over five years ago from the Sea View League, where they perennially earned postseason berths.

Newport Harbor will welcome back the Oilers to the Sunset League in the league opener Oct. 15 at Newport Harbor.

Cecil Whiteside has to go through Santa Ana to reach Berkeley. He expected to be in Berkeley, not Santa Ana this fall.

The former Newport Harbor High standout linebacker has enrolled at Santa Ana College and hopes to attend Cal in the spring, Brinkley said.

The Golden Bears recruited Whiteside, ranked as the fourth best outside linebacker recruit in the country by Rivals.com, but Coach Jeff Tedford said that Whiteside will grayshirt at Cal this upcoming season after having to sit out his first year because of academic issues.

Brinkley said Whiteside would not play football at Santa Ana College, so he could have four years of athletic eligibility with the Golden Bears.

"I hope for Cecil that he goes and takes care of his business over at Santa Ana, and knocks out the units he needs to knock out, and then gets up there [at Cal next] semester and gets a chance to go to spring ball," said Brinkley, who coached the three-time first-team All-Sunset League player for four years. "Sometimes young guys don't realize the impact these things have, not only on them, their immediate future, but the long term future. It can change somebody's whole life.

"If he can get up there and play for four years and get his degree, it'll set him up for the rest of his life."

One football coach who is happy that Laguna Hills is no longer in the Pacific Coast League is Corona del Mar's Jason Hitchens.

The Hawks won the league title in each of the last four seasons, going unbeaten during the stretch. Laguna Hills compiled a remarkable 15-0-1 record and won the CIF Southern Section Southern Division championship two years ago.

The Sea View League gains Laguna Hills and loses Woodbridge and Northwood, two programs finishing at the bottom of league the last four years, to the Pacific Coast League. Hitchens said after Irvine, the league is wide open.

"This bodes well for us," said Hitchens, whose Sea Kings will try to rebound from last year's 0-5 league record, their first winless season in league since 1997.

Costa Mesa and Estancia will see a new football team in the Orange Coast League this season.

Saddleback joins the 5-year-old league looking for its first league victory since Nov. 2, 2006. The Roadrunners dropped their final 16 games in the Golden West League.

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