The Newport Harbor High football team kicks off the season tonight against a program it last dropped an opener to eight years ago.
The Sailors go for their eighth straight opening-game win when they play host to Trabuco Hills at 7. The streak started after Newport Harbor fell to the Mustangs in 2002, then the Sailors beat them the following season.
Those two meetings are the only times Newport Harbor and Trabuco Hills have played. They might play again in November.
The Mustangs moved to the South Coast League, which is part of the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs. Newport Harbor has reached the Pac-5 playoffs out of the Sunset League twice in the past four seasons.
Newport Harbor expects to return to the postseason in Coach Jeff Brinkley's 25th season at the helm.
The Sailors are the eighth-ranked team in the Pac-5 poll. They moved up a spot without playing a game in Week Zero thanks to Carson of the Los Angeles City Section pulling off a 14-10 upset of then-No. 2 Mater Dei last week.
Trabuco Hills travels to Davidson Field already having played a game. The Mustangs won their opener last week against Capistrano Valley, 17-0. Trabuco Hills and Capistrano Valley switched leagues.
The Cougars are in the Sea View League, which the Mustangs won twice in the previous three years. During that stretch, Trabuco Hills reached the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division final twice.
Gone is the coach who led the Mustangs, Jason Negro.
Negro took the job at St. John Bosco and most likely the Mustangs' no-huddle attack, which helped the program compile a 32-9 record over the last three seasons.
Fast-paced offenses gave Newport Harbor fits last season. Dana Hills, Edison, Fountain Valley and Lakewood each scored at least 34 points on the Sailors. Four of the five losses Newport Harbor suffered were to these teams.
The defense returns to its roots after allowing 21.3 points per game last season. The Sailors move back to the 4-3 after using the 3-4 in recent years.
"We kind of looked at the guys we have returning and we've had a lot of success in past years running [the 4-3]," said Brinkley, who has Stanford-bound senior defensive tackle JB Salem and senior linebacker Ryan Andrews leading the defense. "We like the guys that we have coming back."
Brinkley is happy about the returning starters on both sides of the ball, especially at the skill positions on offense.
The offense features quarterback Austin Rios and wide receiver Parker Norton. As juniors last year, the two hooked up 37 times for close to 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Brinkley said junior Buzzy Yokoyama and senior Drew Diller will handle the running back duties afterfirst-team All-Sunset League tailback Cedric Whitaker did not return after a strong 2009 season.
Expect to see Yokoyama line up at receiver, where Trabuco Hills safety Andrew Walsh will surely keep an eye on the 5-foot-10, 198-pound speedster.
Scott Orloff, the former defensive coordinator at Orange Coast College, is the head coach at Trabuco Hills. He coached at Dana Hills for five years before joining OCC eight years ago.
Tonight marks the third time an Orloff-led team has squared off against Brinkley's Sailors. Brinkley holds the edge at 2-0.