Sailors' Brinkley celebrated

Now in his fifth decade as a high school football head coach, Jeff Brinkley embraces loyalty as enthusiastically as he relishes achievement on the field.

The assertion that the former has increased the latter, particularly during 25-plus seasons at the helm of the Newport Harbor High Sailors, is beyond doubt.

Loyalty will be a prominent theme Saturday night, when friends, former players, and supporters of the program gather to celebrate Brinkley's first 25 seasons as the Sailors' coach.

The bottom line, in this case proceeds generated from tickets priced at $100 per person and $150 per couple, will benefit the Newport Harbor football program. (A Facebook page has been created)

But it is Brinkley's contributions, as the poster advertising the event says "on and off the NHHS gridiron," that have provided the well of memories that will be tapped deep into the evening at the Balboa Pavilion.

Entering his 301st game as the Sailors head man Friday against Loyola of Los Angeles, Brinkley has amassed a 208-89-3 record that includes CIF Southern Section championships in 1994, 1999 and 2005. By far the Newport-Mesa area's winningest football coach, Brinkley's Newport Harbor teams have advanced to the postseason 19 times.

In addition to the three CIF championships, the Tars reached the division title game in 2004, 2000, 1996 and 1992. Brinkley's first 25 Sailors teams averaged 8.3 victories and posted a winning percentage of .698.

With a legacy that puts him among the elite coaches not only in Orange County, but in Southern California, Brinkley's career is chock full of milestones.

Here are those deemed by the Daily Pilot to be his top five.

1 – The 1994 Sailors capped a 14-0 campaign with a 20-15 win over Servite in the CIF Southern Section Division V title game at Orange Coast College.

The five-game Sea View League schedule included three wins — over Corona del Mar, Irvine and Santa Margarita — by a combined six points and the Tars overcame Canyon, 21-19, in their biggest nonleague scare.

The playoffs opened with a 28-14 home triumph over Saddleback, then the Sailors took to the road for a 24-8 quarterfinal win at Brea Olinda and a 13-10 overtime thriller over Foothill at Tustin High.

In the title game, touchdown runs by CIF Division V Player of the Year Brian Johnson, the tailback, and quarterback John Giordani created a 14-9 lead.

Servite battled back to claim a 15-14 lead with 4:08 remaining but Giordani threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mike Freeman for the game-winning score with 2:37 left.

In addition to Johnson, Freeman, Dan McDonough, Jack Hogan and Sherif Pepic earned All-CIF laurels and Bill Johns was the Newport-Mesa Dream Team and Defensive Player of the Year.

Giordani was named Sea View League Offensive Player of the Year and was joined by the aforementioned honorees, as well as Matt Riggle, Scott Sandstrom, Jon Benzinger, Danny Pulido, Brandon Baker and James Moreaux on the Dream Team.

It remains the only 14-0 season ever posted by a Newport-Mesa school.


2 – A dramatic 19-18 win over Sea View League rival Irvine in the CIF Division VI title game at Orange Coast College gave the program its second section crown to cap a 13-0-1 season.

Irvine took a 12-0 lead and sacked Newport Harbor quarterback Chris Manderino eight times.

But two Brian Gaeta field goals drew the Sailors closer, before Irvine scored again for an 18-6 cushion.

The late Andrew Stewart's 19-yard touchdown run put the Tars within 18-13 in the third quarter.

Newport defensive end Garrett Troncale forced a fumble during a sack and Andy Kalanz scooped up the fumble and returned it four yards for the game-winning touchdown with 10:15 left in the game.

In addition to Stewart (MVP), Manderino, Kalanz and Troncale, the 1999 Dream Team was dotted with Sailors.

Middle linebacker Alan Saenz was Defensive Player of the Year.

Other Dream Team honorees included Blair Jones, Robert Cole, Nick Langsdorf, Justin Jacobs, Billy Clayton, Mike Tunney, Dayne Pfaff, Nick Haddy and Luis Cruz.

A 21-21 tie with Marina kept the team from 14 wins and a 12-10 regular-season win over Irvine was the only other close game that season.


3 – The 2005 Tars capped an 11-3 campaign with a 28-21 win over Valencia in the CIF Division VI title game at Orange Coast College.

A 14-7 halftime deficit was followed by a dominant final two quarters for the Sailors, who had seven-play touchdown drives of 70 and 52 yards to take a 21-14 advantage into the final period.

Quarterback Tom Jackson, who was three of 10 passing for 26 yards before halftime, completed seven of his final nine passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns to help the Sailors celebrate.

A third Jackson touchdown pass to Delano McKenzie from two yards out, finalized the Sailors' scoring with 5:39 left and, after a Valencia TD, James Coder ended the Tigers' final possession with an interception.

Tailback Ryan Rippon, whose return near midseason from reconstructive off-season knee surgery was a turning point, earned CIF Division IX and Dream Team Player of the Year laurels. He was one of the Sailors' seven All-CIF performers.

Also All-CIF and on the Dream Team were Charles Schultz, Billy Munce, Fernando Lara, Nick Frazier, Mike Calabrese and Jarrett Daniel.

Jackson was Dream Team Offensive Player of the Year, while Jack Tracy, Coder, Alex Flores, David Rosales and McKenzie were additional Dream Team honorees.


4 – The 1992 Sailors defeated Back Bay rival Corona del Mar, 28-21, at Newport Harbor High, in the CIF Division IV semifinals to earn the school's first section title-game appearance in 50 years.

The win, in arguably the most hyped game in Newport-Mesa history, was followed by a 30-8 loss to Irvine in the final at Orange Coast College.

The Battle of the Bay II was tied, 21-21 when tailback Wade Tift ran 30 yards for a touchdown with 50 seconds left to avenge the Tars' 17-0 regular-season loss to the Sea Kings.

Justin Ketcham forced a fumble recovered by Chris Edwards on the CdM 42-yard line with 2:57 left to set up the winning score.

Stalwarts on that Newport Harbor team included Beau Ralphs, Steve Gonzales, Phil Bloomberg, Gregg Williams and Chad La Bass.


5 – The 1996 team, which produced a school-record 493 points and was arguably the most talented in the Brinkley era, defeated Servite, 23-16, in a CIF Division V semifinal.

Quarterback Josiah Fredricksen threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Brad La Bass to cap the upset win over the Friars.

Fredricksen also threw an eight-yard TD pass to Pulido and tailback Ray Ohrel scored on a 16-yard run.

Fredricksen, Ohrel and two-way standouts Pulido and Joe Urban, combined to spearhead a group that finished 12-2, with its only two losses coming to a Santa Margarita team triggered by future Heisman Trophy winnerCarson Palmer.

Santa Margarita topped the Tars, 36-22, in an epic Week 6 Sea View League meeting at Newport Harbor. The Eagles trounced the Sailors, 38-0, in the Division VI title clash that featured no second-half scoring.

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