Norton Sailors' do-everything man

Today marks the 37th day since Parker Norton played in his final football game for Newport Harbor High. Norton's career with the Sailors is over, yet he is working on whatever it will take to suit up again.

Playing football again is what drives Norton. Getting that chance is why he shows up to the gym to work out and why he runs on a daily basis. He believes there is a college team out there he can help after high school.

Norton proved his worth at Newport Harbor. No other player in the area this year contributed to a team as much as the 6-foot, 180-pounder. That is why Norton is the Daily Pilot's Newport-Mesa Dream Football Player of the Year.

Norton did it all for the Sailors, practically never taking a down off. How could he? On offense, he lined up at wide receiver, and at cornerback on defense. On special teams, he returned kickoffs and punts.

When the Sailors scored a touchdown or attempted a field goal, it was time for Norton to take a knee. Being the holder for the placekicker was not much of a break for Norton. His job was to make sure to handle the snap seven yards behind the line of scrimmage, while on one knee, and then quickly placing one end of the ball on the field, before rotating the ball so that the laces faced the goal posts.

The best player on a team does not usually perform this duty. Norton played anywhere Coach Jeff Brinkley needed him on the field. Whether it was hauling in passes, intercepting passes, getting the Sailors good field position, or making the placekicker's job a lot easier, Newport Harbor heavily relied on Norton.

Norton wasn't the fastest, the biggest or the strongest player on the field, but he always produced. Even when he cracked a rib at the start of Sunset League play, Norton played through the pain and performed at a high level. He helped the Sailors (6-5, 3-2 in league) clinch third place in league and make their second straight CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff appearance.

Norton earned the Sunset League Defensive Back of the Year honor after recording four interceptions and 12 pass break-ups, but he was just as good on offense. He finished with 64 catches for 569 yards and five touchdowns.

The receptions rank third all-time at Newport Harbor when it comes to single-season records. For his career, Norton totaled 101 catches, No. 4 at the school.

Norton is now hoping to can catch on with a college football program. Norton, a two-time Dream Team selection, said two schools have shown interest, Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.

"That's my top choice," Norton said of SMU, a member of Conference USA, which is part of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, compared to Lindenwood, a NAIA school. "I had an unofficial visit at SMU [on Nov. 20] and went to [its] home game against Marshall. I really liked the environment and the football program, especially the spread offense [the Mustangs run]. They're a high-scoring offense and I think I'd fit in as a slot receiver. I have good hands and I'm good at getting open.

"I'm going back in January on an official visit. I would be fine with being a walk-on player with a shot to earn a scholarship later. I just want to keep playing football."

Here are the rest of the players on this year's Dream Team.

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Offensive Player of the Year

Taylor Ross

Sage Hill | RB

The senior running back produced one of the best offensive seasons in the area's history. Ross rushed for 1,869 yards and 26 touchdowns, both totals are Sage Hill single-season records and ranked him third and second, respectively, in Orange County. Ross, the Academy League Offensive MVP, topped at least 100 yards on the ground in each of the 11 games on the Sage Hill (8-3, 2-1 in league) schedule. He recorded a school-record 250 yards in a 20-13 victory against Fairmont Prep. Ross also converted five of six field-goal attempts, including a 45-yarder in the first round of the CIF Southern Section East Valley Division playoffs, and made 37 extra-point kicks. Ross finished with 216 points, third best in the county. Ross is a two-time Dream Team selection.

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Defensive Player of the Year

Preston Risser

Corona del Mar | LB

The senior middle linebacker played a vital role to the Sea Kings' remarkable turnaround from a year ago. One season after CdM went winless in Pacific Coast League play, the Sea Kings became unbeaten league champions and claimed the program's first outright league crown in 22 years. Risser led CdM (10-2-1, 4-0-1 in league) to the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs, one game away from playing for its first section title since 1989. Risser earned the CIF Southern Section Southern Division Defensive Player of the Year and Pacific Coast League Defensive MVP awards. He finished with 110 tackles, 10 for losses, forced five fumbles, and had two sacks and two interceptions.

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Mitch Gardner

Corona del Mar | QB

The senior quarterback gave the up-tempo Sea Kings an aerial threat after the team's lack of a passing game the previous season. Gardner led the area with 1,635 yards and 19 touchdowns through the air. Three times this year Gardner threw three touchdown passes, including in the second-seeded Sea Kings' 35-0 victory against Anaheim in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs. He passed for a career-best 270 yards in the game and rushed for a touchdown.

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Buzzy Yokoyama

Newport Harbor | RB

The junior running back was a load to bring down because of the 5-foot-10, 198-pounder's tenacious running style. Yokoyama rushed for 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns, despite missing three games because of a dislocated right kneecap suffered in the fourth game of the season. In just his second varsity start at tailback, he amassed 294 yards on the ground in the Sailors' 35-28 victory against Loyola of Los Angeles, tying Newport Harbor's single-game rushing record. Yokoyama, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry, made the All-Sunset League first team.

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Robert Murtha

Estancia | RB

The sophomore running back turned into the Eagles' workhorse in his varsity debut and it paid off. Murtha led Estancia to a 5-0 Orange Coast League championship season, the program's first outright league title in 21 years. Murtha set an Estancia single-season rushing record with 1,679 yards and he rushed for 19 touchdowns. Murtha, the Orange Coast League Offensive Player of the Year, totaled 320 yards on the ground in a game against Saddleback, leaving him five yards short of breaking the Eagles' single-game rushing record.

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Brent Gray

Corona del Mar | WR

The senior wide receiver rejoined the Sea Kings after missing the previous two years. Gray did not lose a step as the sprinter stretched the field for the Sea Kings. He finished with 40 catches for 668 yards and nine touchdowns, including one for 87 yards. In CdM's league opener, Gray hauled in touchdown passes of 52, 27 and eight yards, helping CdM avoid a loss by tying Northwood, 29-29. The Sea Kings never lost in league. Gray earned second-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

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Kellon Truxton

Newport Harbor | WR

The senior wide receiver stepped in as the Sailors' No. 2 target and gave the offense a vertical threat in Sunset League play. Truxton averaged 16.6 yards per reception and scored on touchdown passes of 75 and 66 yards, both coming in wins against Huntington Beach and Marina that propelled Newport Harbor into the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs. He finished with 21 catches for 348 yards and five touchdowns. Truxton received first-team All-Sunset League laurels.

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Clay Reinhardt

Corona del Mar | RB-WR

The senior lined up at running back and wide receiver for the Sea Kings and excelled at both positions. Reinhardt filled the void of an injured running back Jeff Condino, rushing for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns, both team bests, and he finished with 13 catches for 356 yards and three touchdowns. Reinhardt was one of Coach Jason Hitchens' standout seniors. He made the All-Pacific Coast League second team.

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Andrew Albers

Costa Mesa | OL

The senior left tackle allowed just five sacks in 441 pass-attempt situations in his final two seasons with the Mustangs. The 6-foot-8, 285-pound Albers shared the Orange Coast League Lineman of the Year award. Albers, who delivered 23 pancake blocks, has many Pacific 10 Conference programs recruiting him. Albers is a two-time Dream Team selection.

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Dillon Gillette

Newport Harbor | OL

The senior right tackle paved the way for the Sailors' strong running attack. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Gillette was a big reason why Buzzy Yokoyama topped 200 yards three times. Gillette started for the second straight year — both times Newport Harbor reached the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs. Gillette received second-team All-Sunset League recognition.

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Zach Bateman

Estancia | OL

The junior left tackle helped Robert Murtha to a record-breaking year at tailback. The 6-foot-5, 295-pound Bateman split the Orange Coast League Lineman of the Year award after creating huge holes for Murtha to run through. With Bateman anchoring the line, the Eagles could afford to run on practically every down.

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T.J. Danner

Sage Hill | OL

The senior left guard played a vital role to Taylor Ross smashing almost every rushing record with the Lightning. The 6-foot-1, 260-pound Danner was the Academy League Lineman of the Year after posting an area-best 67 pancake blocks. He even had a 30-yard touchdown run. Danner is a two-time Dream Team selection.

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Dan Steele

Corona del Mar | OL

The senior left tackle protected quarterback Mitch Gardner's blindside. The 6-foot, 205-pound Steele anchored an offensive line that rarely took a break during a CdM drive. The Sea Kings ran a no-huddle offense, keeping defenses on their toes and their own linemen on the move. Steele earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.

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JB Salem

Newport Harbor | DL

The senior defensive tackle was the area's toughest player to block because of his 6-foot-4, 258-pound frame and abilities. Salem, a first-team All-Sunset League selection, registered 44 tackles, three sacks and blocked one kick. He is going to Stanford to play on a football scholarship. Salem is a three-time Dream Team selection.

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Steve Michaelsen

Newport Harbor | DL

The junior defensive end moved to the line after starting at linebacker the previous season. Michaelsen created havoc for offensive tackles, finishing with 58 tackles and two sacks. Coach Jeff Brinkley said he expects the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Michaelsen, a second-team All-Sunset League pick, to be a highly recruited player next year.

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Mutuvai Asi

Newport Harbor | DL

The senior defensive end transferred from Samoa and turned raw talent into problems for opposing blockers. The 6-foot-3, 237-pounder showed athleticism and fit in well with the Sailors. Asi, a second-team All-Sunset League pick, finished with 52 tackles, one sack and one blocked kick.

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Alex Herrera

Corona del Mar | DL

The senior defensive end was one of the Sea Kings' vocal leaders and he backed up his words. Herrera registered 8.5 sacks, 79 tackles, 12 for losses, 13 hurries, two pass deflections and one fumble recovery. He earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League laurels.

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Blair Luchs

Newport Harbor | LB

The senior outside linebacker led the Sailors' always-talented linebacker crew. The defense changed from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 and Luchs stood out. He totaled a team-best 110 tackles, 64 solo, and had two interceptions and caused one fumble. Luchs was a first-team All-Sunset League recipient.

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Ryan Andrews

Newport Harbor | LB

The senior middle linebacker was part of a Newport Harbor defense that allowed a Sunset League-low 8.6 points per game and shut out two league opponents to clinch third place. Andrews moved inside after starting at outside linebacker last year. He earned first-team All-Sunset League honors.

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Ethan Cochran

Newport Harbor | LB

The junior outside linebacker started for the first time on varsity and he supported both the run and pass well. Cochran, a second-team All-Sunset League selection, finished with 73 tackles and two sacks.

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Cole Cottrell

Corona del Mar | DB

The junior was one of the area's shutdown cornerbacks. Cottrell broke up 12 pass plays, defended 28 passes, intercepted three passes, forced two fumbles and recovered one fumble. Cottrell, who had 49 tackles, received first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

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DaSean Grayson

Costa Mesa | DB

The senior was one of the better cover cornerbacks in the area. Grayson used his quickness to close on passes and he played the run well, making big hits. He made 75 tackles and was a member of the All-Orange Coast League first team.

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Titus Hasson

Newport Harbor | DB

The junior safety made his debut with the Sailors after transferring from Nevada and he made a difference with his speed, covering a lot of ground in the secondary. Hasson finished with 63 tackles and one interception. Hasson was a second-team All-Sunset League pick.

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Peter Markel

Corona del Mar | DB

The senior free safety helped the Sea Kings' defense allow just 16.1 points per game. He made 78 tackles, defended 17 passes, intercepted one pass and forced one fumble. Markel is a member of the All-Pacific Coast League second team.

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Andrew Boehm

Corona del Mar | K

The senior won the Pacific Coast League Kicker of the Year honor. Boehm converted an area-best 12 field-goal attempts and 40 extra-point kicks. In the Sea Kings' 16-10 upset of Huntington Beach in the second game of the season, Boehm made three field goals, two in the fourth quarter. He recorded 40 touchbacks.

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Matt Carlyle

Estancia | KR-PR

The senior kick and punt returner took home the Orange Coast League Special Teams Player of the Year award. Carlyle returned two kickoffs 92 yards for touchdowns and a punt 83 yards for a touchdown in the Eagles' final four league games. Carlyle averaged 31 yards per punt return in league.

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