Two-Minute Drill: Brinkley keeps Tars alive


•For the first time since the 2004-05 seasons, Newport Harbor High has won back-to-back opening-round games in the CIF Southern Section playoffs.

The Sailors traveled to Dana Hills and prevailed in the Southwest Division first-round game, 32-13, last week. Newport Harbor (6-5) advanced to the quarterfinals to play host to La Habra (10-1) on Friday at 7 p.m.

Coach Jeff Brinkley, who improved to 16-6 in playoff openers in his 28 years with the Sailors, is glad Newport Harbor gets to play at Davidson Field next.

"No. 1 team," Brinkley said of the Highlanders, "but we get them at home."

Newport Harbor is asking all of its fans to wear Navy blue for the game.

•Newport Harbor's quarterfinal game with La Habra features two of the top coaches in Orange County.

La Habra's Frank Mazzotta has led the Highlanders to six CIF Southern Section titles, including three of the past five Southwest Division crowns. He is 154-49-1 in his 16 years in charge of La Habra.

Brinkley has guided the Sailors to three section championships, the last one in 2005. He's 226-109-3 in his 28 years at the helm of Newport Harbor.

Brinkley and Mazzotta have never coached against each other while at their respective schools.

Newport Harbor leads the series against La Habra at 5-4. Brinkley is 3-1 against the Highlanders.

The last time the Sailors played La Habra was in 1990.

•Half of the teams in the CIF Southern Section Southwest Division playoffs are from the Sunset League.

The Sailors, Los Alamitos, Edison and Huntington Beach are the four Sunset League teams in the quarterfinals.

While Newport Harbor (6-5) is at home against top-seeded La Habra (10-1), Los Alamitos (9-2) plays at Fullerton (9-2), third-seeded Edison (8-3) plays Villa Park (9-2) at El Modena High, and Huntington Beach (6-5) plays host to San Juan Hills (10-1).

If all the Sunset League teams come out on top, the Southwest Division semifinals will feature Newport Harbor against Los Alamitos and Edison against Huntington Beach.

The Sailors last reached the semifinals in 2005, when they went on to win the CIF Southern Section Division VI title.

Last year, Newport Harbor lost on the road in the quarterfinals to Villa Park, 26-21.

Edison went on to win the Southwest Division title last year, beating Villa Park, 28-10. The section crown is the only one Dave White, a Newport Beach resident, has earned as the head coach of the Chargers. He began at Edison in 1986.

•Brinkley said there's a good chance that Chance Siemonsma returns from a leg injury this week.

The tailback missed last week's playoff opener. Garrett Hall filled in for the Sailors' leading rusher and rushed 23 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Newport Harbor rushed for four touchdowns against Dana Hills. Riley Gaddis, who started at tailback, and fullback Trevor Shaw each recorded one touchdown.

— David Carrillo Peñaloza


••In postseason play, it's rare for any team to have the opportunity to implement its lineup freely, only turn the ball over on downs, and enjoy a free-moving clock in the fourth quarter. All those things, though, are what Corona del Mar had the luxury of experiencing during its first-round CIF Southern Section Southern Division game Friday against the Loara Saxons.

The Sea Kings built a 31-point lead in the first half and were in complete control by intermission, then went out at the outset of the third quarter and scored on the opening possession of the second half, and proceeded to overpower the Saxons, 44-3.

CdM, which defeated Loara for the first time, scored on its first seven possessions of the game. Leading, 41-3, with 8:08 still to play in the third quarter, starters went to the sideline for the remainder of the game, and other Sea Kings, who hustled and played well down the stretch, took the field to close out the game.

The Sea Kings used three quarterbacks, led by senior starter Luke Napolitano, who had a great performance. He was replaced early in the second half by Peter Bush, and the sophomore gave way later to freshman Chase Garbers.

"I thought we played really well and it was nice to get so many guys playing time," CdM Coach Scott Meyer said after the game. "It was a good reward for all the hard work they have put in. We didn't expect that."

•The CdM defense also had a big game.

After adjusting to an opening game drive that saw Loara go from its own 38-yard line, to the CdM 24 – 15 of those yards coming on a pass interference call on a fourth-down incomplete pass, the Sea Kings defense stiffened and came up with a fumble recovery to keep the Saxons from scoring.

Trailing, 7-0, Loara got the ball back when the Saxons recovered a fumbled punt at the CdM 29, but the Sea Kings again turned away a deep threat.

Loara's only score in the game came via a 26-yard field goal with 7:01 remaining in the first half. The scoring drive was set up by a 67-yard kickoff return by speedy sophomore running back Robert Downs that put the ball at the CdM 30. Once the Saxons had advanced to the 20, the Sea Kings only gave up one more yard, and forced the field goal from Andy Franco.

The three points were the fewest scored by the Saxons this year.

The CdM defense now has held six opponents this year to a touchdown or less, five to a field goal or less, and owns three shutouts. It protected the end zone from a Loara offense that had scored 83 points in its previous two games and came into the first-round game averaging 28 points.

"Our defense did a very good job all night," Meyer said. "They were coming off a win against the No. 4 seed (38-35 over Golden West League co-champion Westminster), and we knew they could put some points up. I was pretty happy with our performance."

The next test for the top-seeded and two-time defending Southern Division champions comes Friday, when CdM goes to Bolsa Grande High for a 7 p.m. date with Los Amigos. The Lobos (9-2) finished second to No. 2-seeded Garden Grove (11-0) in the Garden Grove League standings.

The Los Amigos offense presents another challenge for the CdM defense: the Lobos, who have won three straight, enter Friday's game averaging nearly 36 points (35.8) a game.

But Los Amigos is no stranger to CdM, which has defeated the Lobos the past two years in the second week (quarterfinal round) of the playoffs.

"Our D-line will be challenged this week by a pretty big and physical O-line," Meyer said. "They have an athletic quarterback [Anthony Magana], who is a three-year starter, and a couple of good running backs who will be protected by that line. They all played well last week in their win."

The Lobos defeated Estancia, 33-12, in their playoff opener Friday, and have put up an average of 42 points during their three-game win streak.

They scored a second-high 70 points in their seventh game of the year.

— Mike Sciacca


•The Costa Mesa High football team still has not won a playoff game since 1997, and Friday night's 35-21 Southern Division first-round loss to Katella at Jim Scott Stadium was the program's 10th straight playoff defeat.

The Mustangs, who finished the season 7-4, are tired of being pushovers when it comes to the CIF playoffs. But Coach Wally Grant said his team just got pushed around too much in the loss to the Knights.

Katella was able to control the line of scrimmage, holding Costa Mesa to 118 yards rushing on 27 carries.

The number doesn't sound too bad, until you consider that the Mustangs averaged nearly 300 yards rushing a game during their undefeated Orange Coast League campaign.

Add in five turnovers, including three fumbles lost in their own territory in the second half, and the Mustangs made things tough on themselves. Each fumble was converted into a touchdown by Katella (8-3), which plays No. 2-seeded Garden Grove on Friday night at Glover Stadium in Anaheim.

•Quinton Bell put together perhaps his best game of the season for the Mustangs in the season-ending loss. The senior starred on offense, where he caught eight of quarterback Oliver Ferris' nine completions for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Bell's first touchdown grab came on a 52-yard completion where he broke free near the line of scrimmage. The second was even more spectacular, as he leaped to grab the ball in double coverage then dashed into the end zone to complete a 44-yard touchdown reception. That brought Costa Mesa within 35-21 with 6:38 remaining in the game, but the Mustangs couldn't get closer.

On defense, Bell contributed to at least three Katella runs for no gain or a loss from his outside linebacker post.

"He was healthy the last four weeks," Grant of Bell, who missed the first four games of the season after suffering a hip flexor injury in the Mustangs' scrimmage against Duarte. "Once he came back from the lung issue [a partially collapsed lung that also caused him to miss the Mustangs' win over Godinez], watching that kid get into playing shape week in and week out was an absolute blast to watch. When he got his touches tonight, he showed what he could do, on both sides of the ball. But we win and lose games up front, and we didn't do very well up front."

•Costa Mesa senior running back Oronde Crenshaw ran for 105 yards on 21 carries in the loss. He got over 100 yards on his final carry of the night, a 10-yard scamper in the final seconds, and continued an impressive individual streak in the process.

Crenshaw ran for at least 100 yards in all eight games in which he played this year for Mesa. He finished the season with 1,861 rushing yards and 28 total touchdowns.

— Matt Szabo


•For the fourth time in five seasons, the Estancia High football team was eliminated from the first round of the CIF Southern Section Southern Division playoffs, as it absorbed a 33-12 loss to Los Amigos on Friday at Bolsa Grande High.

But the 2013 Eagles did not turn in their gear before generating plenty of momentum for the 2014 season.

After a 2-5 start, Estancia won its final three regular-season games to go from the bottom half of the Orange Coast League to second place and its fifth straight trip to the playoffs.

Along the way, a healthy number of young players gained varsity seasoning. On offense, the Eagles started only four seniors against the Lobos, while Friday's defensive lineup included four juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.

The breakdown of returning starters on offense includes five juniors and two sophomores, including a handful of talented skill-position players.

•Included among the projected Estancia returners for 2014 are junior tailbacks Christian Laurent and Indiana Taylor, sophomore quarterback Connor Brown and junior receivers Devon Jackson and Dalton O'Daly.

On defense, the standouts who will not be graduating include junior middle linebacker Tyler Thomas, freshman cornerback Dylan Laurent and sophomore end Jason Jones.

Christian Laurent, who missed parts of four games with a sprained ankle, finished with 925 rushing yards on 196 attempts in his first season at the school after transferring from Edison.

Taylor, who emerged largely to fill the void left by Christian Laurent's absence while injured, amassed 518 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 73 attempts.

Brown topped the 1,000-yard passing plateau on Friday. He finished with 1,028 yards and six touchdowns through the air.

Jackson, who also started at cornerback, had 32 receptions for 494 yards in 2013.

•One element of Estancia's game that was consistently good on Friday was kickoff returns.

Taylor sprinted 97 yards for a touchdown with the second-half kickoff and Dylan Laurent had a would-be 83-yard kickoff return for a touchdown called back for a block in the back. He was credited with 38 yards on the return.

Taylor gained 30 yards on a third kickoff return.

•Estancia may have had at least one sympathizer in the Los Amigos camp on Friday. Former Eagles' football standout Chris Sandro is a teacher at the school.

— Barry Faulkner


•There are great expectations for quarterback CJ McCord, who will be a senior next year. McCord threw for 266 yards and two touchdowns, completing 28 of his 52 passes with no interceptions in the Lightning's season finale.

"I have excitement for CJ and I can see him playing to be the Academy League Player of the Year," Sage Hill Coach J.R. Tolver said. "I think that he is that good. It's exciting. He has a lot of work to do. And we as coaches have a lot of work to do to put him in position to succeed. But I think he has that ability."

•Tolver said Sage Hill will be rebuilding a bit when it comes to the offensive and defensive lines next year, but he believes he'll have experienced playmakers and he is confident the skill position players have the ability to put up plenty of points on the scoreboard.

"It's small-school syndrome," Tolver said. "It's kind of every year you lose something you wish you had, but you gain something you didn't have," Tolver said. "You hope the football gods look down on you and bless you with both. But nine times out of 10 you are strong at one spot and weak at another."

— Steve Virgen

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