The Estancia High football team retired the No. 37 jersey of Brian "Bubba" Kapko prior to Friday night's Orange Coast League opener against Laguna Beach. Kapko's family members and friends spoke at a ceremony near the Eagles' football office. Coach Mike Bargas said the team dedicated the season to Kapko, who played football at Estancia before dying in a car accident in 2005, at the age of 19.
The Brian Kapko Foundation hosts the popular "Bub-A-Que" each year at an Angels baseball game, raising money for the community while honoring Bubba.
"[Kapko's family] are the greatest people and the biggest Estancia supporters," Bargas said. "They don't just support football, they support the school as a whole … It's the least we can do for them. We want the Kapko name ever-present here at the school."
The Newport Harbor High defense turned in its best performance of the year at the right time.
The Sailors intercepted four passes and allowed only 79 yards rushing and 90 yards passing in a 28-6 Sunset League-opening win at home against Huntington Beach on Friday. The victory ended a two-game losing streak.
Senior safety Kellon Truxton recorded two picks, returning one 17 yards for a touchdown. Senior cornerback Parker Norton and senior linebacker Blair Luchs each had an interception.
Brinkley credited defensive coordinator Tony Ciarelli for the Sailors (4-2, 1-0 in league) slowing down his former school.
"Coach Ciarelli prepared those guys well for that zone read they ran," Brinkley said. "It's really like playing an option team. You've got to be disciplined. You've got to assign somebody for every aspect of that offense. We did some creative things this week and put these guys in a position to be successful and they went out and executed the plan."
On a team full of play-makers, junior David Fenner is arguably the most unlikely standout for Sage Hill School.
In the Lightning's 53-7 nonleague win over visiting Saddleback Valley Christian on Friday, Fenner was in on four tackles for losses and also recovered a fumble to set up a short touchdown drive. The 5-foot-9, 150-pounder played safety last season, but was shifted to outside linebacker in the off-season. It was a move generated by defensive coordinator JD Thompson and one that Coach J.R. Tolver called genius.
The soft-spoken Fenner, whom Tolver called an animal, had a different word for the position shift.
"I got to camp in August and [the coaches] were like, 'You're playing [weak-side linebacker],' " Fenner said. "And I was like, 'Sweet.' "
Fenner said his quickness and a scheme that included frequent blitzes, helped him become a frequent visitor to the Warriors backfield.
Tolver said it was more than the scheme that led to Fenner's success.
"He just has a nose for the ball," Tolver said. "He's not the biggest kid in the world, but he's tough as nails and he likes to mix it up."
Corona del Mar High's five-game losing streak in Pacific Coast League play is over.
The skid, which dated back to last season, did not end in the way Coach Jason Hitchens wanted it to Thursday.
The Sea Kings played Northwood to a 29-29 tie in a league opener at Newport Harbor High. Hitchens would have preferred the two teams play overtime to determine a winner, but league rules do not allow OT.
"The mind-set behind [not playing overtime in league] is, especially now that we have an at-large [playoff berth] in the [CIF Southern Section Southern Division], that a tie helps you, and given the situation, would you rather tag a loss on there or a tie?" Hitchens said.
"I would've been a lot happier if we would've held on to the lead and won the game, but considering how horrible we played in the first half, [I'll take the tie]."
The tie in league was the Sea Kings' first in seven years.
Costa Mesa High (1-5) may have lost Thursday's 42-41 Orange Coast League opener against Godinez in triple overtime, but Coach Jeremy Osso is happy senior strong safety-running back Julian Marquez is back at full strength.
Marquez had a sack and recorded four tackles for no gain or a loss. Offensively, he carried the ball 10 times for 100 yards. His 43-yard run early in the third quarter helped set up the Mustangs' first touchdown.
Osso said Marquez, who has asthma, was slowed by bronchitis during the team's bye week. He is now feeling better, and Osso said he has lessened his two-way starter's reps a bit as well to keep him more fresh.
The Estancia defense came up big in the Eagles' 36-10 league-opening win over defending league champion Laguna Beach. The Breakers (1-5) are known for their passing attack, but the Eagles (2-4) held senior quarterback Austin Paxson to a season-low 104 yards passing and senior Chris Paul to a season-low 40 receiving yards. Estancia sacked Paxson five times and held the Breakers to a season-low 10 points.
"We knew that No. 1 [Paul] was a weapon," said Bargas, whose team beat Laguna Beach for the first time since the league was formed in 2006. "We had to shut down Chris Paul and the defense did a nice job."
Senior Omar Gutierrez played on offense but not defense for the Eagles during the game against Laguna Beach. Gutierrez, a two-time Newport-Mesa Dream Team pick who plays tight end and linebacker, is still feeling a bit sore after suffering a deep bruise in his lower back during a loss to Northwood on Sept. 30.
He missed a loss to Beckman the following week but Bargas said Gutierrez toughed it out against Laguna Beach. He didn't catch a pass but was able to help block for sophomore running back Robert Murtha, who ran for a career-high 229 yards and three touchdowns.
The Sailors continue to lose a key starter each week.
Norton, an all-around threat, cracked a rib late in the second quarter and had trouble breathing, said Kirk Norton, Parker's father.
Parker Norton, a senior starting wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner, only performed his holding duties after suffering the injury.
Kirk said Parker is day to day, but he expects him to play in the Sailors' league showdown Thursday against Los Alamitos (4-2, 1-0) at Veterans Stadium in Long Beach.
"I think he'll be OK," Brinkley said of Norton, who finished with five catches for 43 yards and one touchdown, 28 yards on five carries, and an interception. "It was one of those situations that had we needed him, he could've played the second half. The way the game was unfolding, we didn't need to use him."
Newport Harbor lost junior running back Buzzy Yokoyama (knee) and senior right tackle Dillon Gillette (concussion) in the fourth game of the season. Senior linebacker/fullback Ryan Andrews injured his shoulder during a practice leading up to the fifth game in which senior quarterback Austin Rios suffered a concussion.
Gillette and Andrews made their return last week, while Brinkley expects Yokoyama to possibly be out until the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.
Rios said he plans to be back this week and start against Los Alamitos.
Junior Cole Blower started in place of Rios against Huntington Beach. In his first varsity start at quarterback, Blower threw for 146 yards and two touchdowns on 10-of-15 passing.
CdM is one of four Pacific Coast League teams ranked in the latest CIF Southern Section Southern Division poll.
The Sea Kings (4-1-1, 0-0-1 in league) are No. 4, behind No. 3 Woodbridge (4-2, 1-0). Northwood (3-2-1, 0-0-1) is No. 5 and Beckman (3-3, 0-1) is No. 7.
The only team from the PCL not ranked is Irvine (2-3-1, 1-0). CdM travels to play the Vaqueros on Thursday.
Godinez, which stormed the field after outlasting the Mustangs, reveled in its first Orange Coast League varsity win. It broke an eight-game league losing streak since the team's first season in 2008.
Osso said he knew the Grizzlies would be tough.
"Make no mistake about it, this isn't the same Godinez team as in years past," Osso said. "This is their first four-year class, and they're a good team."
Quarterback Mitch Gardner threw three touchdown passes against Northwood, giving the CdM senior 10 this season. He is tied with Costa Mesa quarterback Nathan Alvis for the lead in Newport-Mesa.
Gardner has only thrown two interceptions.
Each of Gardner's touchdowns last week went to receiver Brent Gray. The longest was for 52 yards.
After Sage Hill's commanding victory, which lifted the Lightning to 6-1, Tolver was quick to align his team's focus on the three-game Academy League schedule, which begins with perennial league champion St. Margaret's on Oct. 22, following a bye.
In his postgame address, Tolver said his team should start thinking about winning a championship. And while St. Margaret's, ranked No. 6 in the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division is 3-3, Tolver still believes the Tartans are a formidable challenge.
"They're still a good football team," Tolver said of St. Margaret's, which has outscored the Lightning, 210-14, in their last three meetings. "[The Tartans] have had some bad breaks this year, with injuries and turnovers and things like that, but they are big, physical, and their kids know how to play football. And, I honestly think they don't like us very much. We're going to have to play well for sure."
Fenner is among those who believes Sage can do just that.
"We feel like we can beat St. Margaret's and go all the way through the playoffs," Fenner said.
The last four Sunset League meetings between Newport Harbor and Los Alamitos have been decided by 10 points.
The Sailors are 3-1 against the Griffins since rejoining the league four years ago.
— From staff reports