Brinkley still passionate

Those who are close to Coach Jeff Brinkley know he isn't much of a party guy.

Yet, he is having a big bash on Sept. 17, the day after his Newport Harbor High football team plays its second game of the year.

The Sailors are going to celebrate the man behind the program for the past 25 years. Brinkley calls the event at the Balboa Pavilion more of a fundraising one for his program.

"Hopefully, there [are] some heavy hitters [coming]," Brinkley said with a laugh.

Every player who has played for Brinkley or coached under him is invited. In Brinkley's eyes, his players and assistants are why he is still around.

This year marks his 26th at Newport Harbor. On this level, he has accomplished almost everything a coach can.

He's won 208 games at Newport Harbor. Only seven other coaches in Orange County are in the 200-win club.

He's won three CIF Southern Section titles. He's won six league titles.

At age 58, Brinkley is hungry for even more. He doesn't know when he plans to retire.

There is no quit in him.

"I'm feeling good," said Brinkley, who turns 59 on Sept. 21. "As long as I enjoy it and have the energy, it's a lot of work, obviously, I'm going to stay after it. I enjoy being around the kids. I enjoy the competition.

"I have a great camaraderie with my coaching staff. I've been lucky with the continuity with those guys."

While assistants come and go at other schools, Brinkley has four longtime assistants.

Defensive coordinator Tony Ciarelli has been with Brinkley for 18 years. Offensive backs coach Bill Brown has been at the school 30 years, four years longer than Brinkley.

Receivers coach Bill Calloway enters his 19th year under Brinkley and linebackers coach Matt Burns his 14th year.

Burns played for Brinkley, as have three of Brinkley's younger assistants, Danny Pulido (defensive line), Garrett Govaars (defensive backs) and George Greenwalt (tight ends).

"These guys have all hung [with me]," Brinkley said.

Loyalty is huge with Brinkley.

The lines were crossed this summer, when his starting running back, Buzzy Yokoyama, left the program after a standout junior year.

Brinkley said Yokoyama, who went through spring ball with the Sailors, came to him the day before school was out and told him he was transferring to Mission Viejo High. Brinkley never saw it coming, losing his hard-running tailback, who helped the team finish third in the Sunset League and qualify for the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs.

Yokoyama earned first-team all-league laurels after rushing for 1,250 yards and 12 touchdowns in eight games.

"I never had a guy leave us until this year," said Brinkley, referring to a starting returner. "The thing is that a lot of time was invested [in Yokoyama, a two-year starter, who started in the secondary as a sophomore]. You give guys reps, and then if you're not going to be the guy that plays for us, then we're wasting the reps on you.

"I'd rather play some guy that's going to be loyal to your program and play all the way through. He receives the reps because that makes him better. I don't even know why he left."

The reason why doesn't matter now to Brinkley.

A week before Newport Harbor broke camp on Aug. 18, the CIF Southern Section approved Yokoyama's transfer to Mission Viejo, which is ranked fifth in the nation by ESPN. Yokoyama is athletically eligible to play football after a valid change of residence.

Yokoyama has moved on and so have the Sailors.

In the process of moving forward, Newport Harbor lost a potential replacement one week into camp. Talalelei Teaupa suffered a broken collarbone during practice.

Brinkley said he's hopeful the junior can return by the league opener against Fountain Valley on Oct. 14. In the meantime, the Sailors turn to three seniors, Ethan Cochran, Titus Hasson and AJ Swies, in the season opener at Trabuco Hills on Sept. 8.

When the shocking news of Yokoyama's transfer hit in June, Cochran said the team would be fine without him.

"I'm sure somebody else will step up," Cochran said back then.

That somebody is now Cochran.

"If we can keep Ethan healthy, he's a stud," Brinkley said. "He can run and he's a physical kid.

Brinkley said he loves his group of running backs, even though Cochran and Hasson never carried the ball on varsity last year, and Swies spent most of the year dealing with a knee injury.

"Swies, I think is on the mend now," Brinkley said. "He was a good running back … as a freshman. I'm just hoping that he can get back into the groove."

Brinkley hopes Swies, Cochran or Hasson can find a rhythm in the backfield before that big party of Brinkley's. If one does and the Sailors start the season at 2-0, you might see Brinkley get his groove on the dance floor.


The Sailors

League: Sunset

CIF Division: Pac-5

Coach: Jeff Brinkley (26th year, 208-88-3)

Staff: Tony Ciarelli (defensive coordinator), Bill Brown (offensive backs), Bill Calloway (wide receivers), Matt Burns (linebackers), Chris Anderson (offensive line), Ryan Formento (offensive line), Garrett Govaars (defensive backs), Danny Pulido (defensive line), George Greenwalt (tight ends)

2010 record: 6-5, 3-2 in Sunset League (third place)

Returning starters: two offense, three defense

Returning with honors: DE Steve Michaelsen, OLB Ethan Cochran, FS Titus Hasson



8 – at Trabuco Hills, 7 p.m.

16 – Loyola, 7 p.m.

23 – vs. Corona del Mar at Orange Coast College, 7 p.m.

30 – at San Clemente, 7 p.m.


6 – Mira Costa, 7 p.m.

14 – Fountain Valley, 7 p.m.*

21 – at Huntington Beach, 7 p.m.*

28 – Los Alamitos, 7 p.m.*


3 – vs. Marina at Westminster, 7 p.m.*

10 – Edison, 7 p.m.*

*denotes league game

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