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Sailors Get Defensive During 14-7 Victory

Prep football: Newport Harbor and Orange Lutheran combine for only 335 yards in opener.


The star wattage has been dialed down this season at Newport Harbor and Orange Lutheran highs, where hard-working defenses and work-in-progress offenses are now the order of the day.

This dichotomy produced a 14-7 Newport Harbor victory Friday night in the teams' season opener before about 2,500 spectators at Newport Harbor.

The Sailors, who went 13-0-1 and won the Southern Section Division VI championship last season, are without the late Andre Stewart, who led the county in rushing as a senior with 2,380 yards. Stewart was killed in an automobile accident May 14.

The visiting Lancers, 11-1 in 1999, are missing quarterback Jason Whieldon, The Times' Orange County back of the year as a senior. And by halftime Friday, they were down to their third-string quarterback.

Minus those two exceptional talents--and a number of other key figures from last season--and facing fine defenses, the offenses combined for only 335 yards Friday, 183 by Newport Harbor.

Each side managed one solid touchdown drive. The difference for Newport Harbor was a blocked punt in the second quarter by defensive end Ian Banigan, which set up a short drive for the Sailors' first touchdown.

"It was pretty much what we expected," said Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley, whose team has six returning starters, and just two on offense. "Our strength is the defensive front seven. They have a good defense too, and the game played to that form."

"I was proud of our effort," said Orange Lutheran Coach Jim Kunau, whose team was missing starting quarterback Robby Hobbs because of a knee injury and lost backup Jason Taylor to a shoulder injury in the second quarter. "We showed a lot of heart."

Orange Lutheran took the opening kickoff and drove 71 yards, scoring on Taylor's 35-yard pass to Jon Talmage (seven catches, 83 yards) on a middle screen. But the Lancers would get only five more first downs.

Newport Harbor got even after Tyler Miller recovered Banigan's blocked punt at the Lancer nine-yard line. Two plays later, Dennis Thornton scored on a five-yard run 6:06 before halftime.

"You know who our special teams coach is? Me," Kunau said. "Fire the special teams coach! The blocked punt was my fault."

The Sailors drove 56 yards to the winning touchdown in the third quarter, Chris Manderino scoring on a one-yard quarterback sneak with 7:15 left in the period.

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