It is the ninth week of the Orange County high school football season and therefore time to talk about musts and ifs.
Newport Harbor must beat University tonight at 7:30 on Davidson Field. If the Sailors (1-2, 4-4) lose, they will be 1-3 in league and have no chance at a playoff berth.
If University (2-1, 5-3) loses, the Trojans' chances of making the playoffs will be in serious jeopardy.
That's because Newport Harbor and University would be tied with records of 2-2 going into the last week of league play. University would have to beat Tustin (3-0, 7-1) and hope Newport Harbor loses to Corona del Mar (0-3, 2-6).
So University must win.
As it stands, things might be a bit in Newport Harbor's favor. Sure, the Sailors have lost four games. But the four opponents who beat them (Santa Ana, El Toro, Tustin and Saddleback) have a combined record of 22-2.
The Sailors are also playing at home, where they have been unscored on this season. Newport Harbor beat Ocean View, 20-0, Huntington, 6-0, and Estancia, 42-0.
The defense was also pretty impressive in last week's 17-0 loss to Saddleback (8-0). Newport Harbor allowed the explosive Roadrunners just 10 points offensively. Saddleback's other touchdown came on an interception return.
"We are definitely up for this game," said Jeff Brinkley, Newport Harbor coach. "I think we're a bit better than our record indicates. We have to prove it Thursday night."
Offensively, Newport Harbor is led by receiver Mark Craig, who is second in the county in receptions with 43.
University has been known to put a few points of its own on the scoreboard. The Trojans scored 34 against Irvine, 35 against Laguna Hills and 43 against Estancia.
Leading the way are running backs Dave Liebke (741 yards) and Craig Belle (719 yards). Bell has scored 10 touchdowns.
The Trojans do not throw the ball a lot. Quarterback Jeff Bailey is averaging 8 passes a game for little more than 81 yards.
In other games at 7:30 tonight:
Angelus League--Bishop Montgomery (0-3, 2-6) vs. Mater Dei (1-2, 4-4) at Santa Ana Stadium: The Monarchs are in fourth place and have lost four of their last six games. They must win to have even an outside chance at a playoff berth. Mater Dei receiver Jim O'Brien leads the county with 48 receptions.
Century League--Foothill (2-1, 5-3) vs. Villa Park (0-3, 2-6) at Fred Kelly Stadium (El Modena H.S.): Foothill is in third place behind league leaders Santa Ana and El Modena. Quarterback Chris Fergus is completing 54.7% of his passes, but has thrown twice as many interceptions (7) than touchdowns (3). After losing last week to Santa Ana Valley, Villa Park is alone in last place. The Spartans have scored just 24 points in three league games.
Empire League--El Dorado (2-3, 2-6) vs. Cypress (2-3, 4-4) at Handel Stadium (Western H.S.): After going 2-1 early in league, El Dorado was thumped by Loara, 30-0, and Esperanza, 49-24. Cypress has a two-game losing streak. The Centurions are led by running back Blaise Bryant, who has gained 1,029 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
Also: Esperanza (3-1-1, 6-1-1) vs. Katella (1-5, 3-5) at Glover Stadium.
Garden Grove League--Rancho Alamitos (0-3, 0-7-1) at Bolsa Grande (3-0, 7-1): Bolsa Grande is tied for first place with La Quinta and has outscored Garden Grove League opponents, 101-20. On the other end of the score board, Rancho Alamitos is tied for last place with Santiago and has been outscored by league opponents, 89-25.
Pacific Coast League--Costa Mesa (2-1, 5-3) vs. Trabuco Hills (0-3, 3-5) at Mission Viejo High School: Costa Mesa is tied with Laguna Beach and Woodbridge for second place. Running back Tyler Riddell has rushed for 1,020 yards and leads the county with 17 touchdowns. Trabuco Hills, tied for last place with Laguna Hills, is led by wide receiver Jeff Dooley, who has 30 receptions and 7 touchdowns.
South Coast League--San Clemente (0-3, 3-5) at Irvine (0-3, 1-7): Tied for last place, each team has yet to win in league. San Clemente's defense has allowed an average of 33.7 points in its first three league games. Irvine's offense is averaging six points a game in league.