NEWPORT BEACH — A party is set up for Jeff Brinkley Saturday to honor his past 25 years as the coach of the Newport Harbor High football team.
There are so many feats for Brinkley to celebrate with former players, colleagues and supporters during the bash. One of those isn't what happened Friday night.
What transpired is a start to a season no one has ever seen under Brinkley's watch at Newport Harbor. The Sailors have begun the year 0-2 after losing 27-0 to Loyola of Los Angeles.
The setback stung a proud coach. The Sailors unveiled gray jerseys in their home opener.
The mood after 48 minutes was just as dark as the new uniforms.
The Cubs avenged two losses in the past two seasons to Newport Harbor. Loyola became the first nonleague opponent to shut out the Sailors in eight years.
Loyola is off to its first 3-0 start in six years. While the Cubs are off to an impressive start, the Sailors are going in the opposite direction.
They have a week to turn it around before the Battle of the Bay against rival Corona del Mar (3-0) at Orange Coast College. The Sea Kings have a legit shot to end the Sailors' four-game winning streak in the rivalry.
Brinkley isn't calling the contest a must-win situation for Newport Harbor.
"No bigger than any of the other games," Brinkley said. "Our goal is to get better."
Early turnovers have hurt those efforts in both of Newport Harbor's games. Just as the offense turned the ball over in the first quarter last week at Trabuco Hills, the Sailors did so again.
On the sixth play from scrimmage, the Sailors fumbled. Eamon McOsker blitzed and sacked quarterback Cole Blower and the ball popped loose.
Loyola took over on the Sailors' 30-yard line. Six plays later, Wyatt Bradford scored on a one-yard run, his first of two touchdowns.
Midway through the opening quarter, Newport Harbor found itself playing from behind again. That isn't the best position for the young, inexperienced Sailors.
When they struggle moving the chains, going without a first down during a 25-minute stretch from the second and fourth quarter, and struggle taking care of the ball, it makes matters worse.
The Sailors fumbled again in the first quarter, but recovered. They made a second-and-15 situation longer and impossible to convert on third down.
The punt was the first of five attempted by Jake Ambrose. The fifth one was blocked and returned for a 27-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The final score was a blow to the Sailors' special teams, which have excelled under Brinkley. The Sailors found it hard to find much success against Loyola.
Their leading rusher was the backup quarterback, Zach Wade, who finished with 27 yards on four carries. He gained the yards midway through the fourth quarter, when Brinkley pulled Blower.
"He was banged up. He didn't practice most the week," said Brinkley of Blower, who joined three other starters out with injuries.
The Sailors went into the game without middle linebacker Stone Manoa (shoulder), tight end Vince Aqueveque (concussion) and lineman Zach Cornwell (knee). All three suffered injuries in the Sailors' 35-14 season-opening loss at Trabuco Hills.
Brinkley offered no excuses for the result.
Despite the offensive woes (51 yards rushing, 82 yards passing and three turnovers), Newport Harbor found itself in the game on a muffed punt in the third quarter.
The Sailors, down, 13-0, recovered the ball on Loyola's 19 with 3:06 left in the quarter. After a five-yard penalty on Newport Harbor, another mistake stopped the offense. McOsker intercepted a pass inside the 20-yard line.
"We've got to stick it in," Brinkley said whenever his team reaches the red zone. "We had an opportunity to put us within six points and we didn't do it. These are the kind of guys you've got to play with in [the CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoffs], so if we're going to compete in this division, we've got to get a lot better."
Loyola 27, Newport Harbor 0
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Loyola 7- 6 - 0 - 14 – 27
Newport Harbor 0- 0 - 0 - 0 – 0
L – Bradford 1 run (Ukropina kick), 5:59.
L – Bradford 2 run (kick blocked), 9:49.
L – Whitfield 39 pass from Finnegan (Ukropina kick), 6:42.
L – Anderson 27 blocked punt return (Ukropina kick), 4:28.
L – Bradford, 17-66, 2 TDs.
NH - Wade, 4-27.
L - Finnegan, 10-13-0, 134, 1 TD.
NH - Wade, 4-7-0, 53.
L - Whitfield, 5-62, TD.
NH - Gyulay, 5-40.