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ORANGE COUNTY SOUTHERN SECTION FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS |
ON THE SIDELINES

A Switch in the Nick of Time

November 25, 2000

Newport Harbor has come on strong since Chris Manderino made the transition from quarterback to running back. The Sailors are 9-1 since making the switch, including a 49-10 victory over Kennedy Friday in the second round of the Southern Section Division VI playoffs.

But something else also has happened. The team has matured.

"I don't know if people know how young we were [at the beginning of the season]," said Jeff Brinkley, Newport Harbor's coach. "We only had two starters back on offense, Manderino at quarterback and Travis Trimble at fullback. And now, Trimble's the only guy in his original position."

And look for Newport Harbor to begin the 2001 season in much better shape. The Sailors will have tight end Joe Foley, left tackle Robert Chai, center Jeff Marshall and right guard Brian Breland back on the offensive line, along with quarterback Morgan Craig and their top receiver, Brian Gaeta.

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How big of a hole in Loara's game plan did the broken collarbone of Billy Chavez leave? A big one.

After all, the senior played running back, cornerback and returned punts and kickoffs.

"He wants to be a factor in the game and to replace him, it [takes] four guys," Loara Coach John deFries said. "But that's part of the deal in football. You just have to go with what you have.

"It would be nice to lay some hands on that bone, but every school faces that--somebody goes down, and somebody has to step up."

It would have taken a mighty big step, however, Friday night, when the Saxons fell to Tustin, 54-22, in a second-round Division VI game.

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The offense has received much of the credit for Mission Viejo's resurgence, and deservedly so.

Behind running back Robbie Dubois and quarterback Billy Hart, it had scored more than 30 points a game until running into Chino in the second round of the Division II playoffs Friday night. The Diablos lost, 17-7.

But Mission Viejo wouldn't have won its first South Coast League title in 10 years without a vastly improved defense. The Diablos started five juniors and two sophomores most of the season on defense and they gave up a lot of points early. But since South Coast League play began, the starting defense had allowed only 20 points.

Johnson said much of the credit goes to defensive coordinator Marty Mikkelsen, who played at Pacifica and Baylor and coached at Pacifica and Saddleback College.

"Our young defense has really grown up as the year has gone on," Johnson said. "The players have improved, but [Mikkelsen's] scheme has made the real difference."

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