SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — Jeff Brinkley said he felt good about Newport Harbor High's scrimmage on Thursday.
The coach liked the format at JSerra because it was controlled and he could talk his football players through situations.
Brinkley didn't have to direct many of his players, only the handful still on the field 20 minutes after the scrimmage ended.
"Fellas, are you going home on the bus?" Brinkley asked the players, who nodded that they were. "Go! Get dressed and get your stuff! We're not staying here! Get going!"
The Sailors left for the bus with their coach right behind them. Brinkley could smile because the scrimmage turned out to be a success for the Sailors.
They faced a physical team from the Trinity League and matched the intensity on the field. They also went home healthy, and to Brinkley, that's what's most important.
He needs his players for Newport Harbor's first game against Trabuco Hills on Aug. 30 at Davidson Field.
While Brinkley and his staff got a good look at the Sailors against JSerra, they planned to spend Friday night scouting the next opponent.
"There [are] pros and cons," said Brinkley, referring to attending Trabuco Hills' season opener at home against Dana Hills. "You get a first glance at [the Mustangs] in a game, but they also get a game under their belt."
Getting the first-game jitters out of the way seemed to help Trabuco Hills last year when it faced the Sailors in the second game.
Newport Harbor looked a step slow, while the Mustangs galloped to a 35-14 home victory. The season-opening setback was the Sailors' first in nine years.
The result is one Brinkley hasn't forgotten. He's only dropped four season openers in the past 26 years as the Sailors' coach.
Going into Brinkley's 27th year at the school, the Sailors look better than they did at the start of last season. Before they kick off this year, several players stood out during the scrimmage.
On defense, defensive tackle Ramsey Hufford made his 6-foot-3, 296-pound presence felt right away. The junior dropped tailback Casey Eugenio, a returning first-team All-Trinity League performer, for a one-yard loss.
The Lions then gave another running back the chance to carry the ball. Marty Taylor, a senior linebacker, stuffed the play at the line of scrimmage.
JSerra went nowhere in its first 10 offensive plays and it fumbled the ball on an exchange between the quarterback and running back. Talalelei Teaupa, a linebacker, recovered the ball for the Sailors.
When it was Teaupa's time to shine on offense, he had to wait just one play.
Newport Harbor aired it out when it first lined up on offense. Quarterback Zach Wade threw a perfect fade to wide receiver Landon Gyulay, going for a 30-yard gain. The seniors hooked up twice on the same play, the second time toward the end of the scrimmage, before he hit receiver Quest Truxton for a 60-yard touchdown.
Gyulay, who played at JSerra as a freshman before transferring to Newport Harbor, hummed the USC fight song after beating the cornerback again.
Teaupa almost beat the defense to the end zone on his first rushing attempt. He ran for 21 yards, setting up the offense inside the opponent's 10-yard line.
On his third carry, Teaupa almost went the distance. The draw play fooled the defense and then the 5-11, 187-pound senior broke to the left, toward the JSerra sideline, where he stiff-armed tacklers to stay on his feet.
Fifty yards later, the Mustangs took him down on the five-yard line. Teaupa looked ready, a good sign to Brinkley. He lost Teaupa to a broken collarbone before the season began last year.
The Sailors have a dangerous running back. They also feature a defensive line, which will create havoc.
Hufford and senior Zach Cornwell (6-3, 264 pounds) are the tackles and Donovan Acadine is a new pass rusher. Brinkley said this is Donovan's first year on varsity. It sure didn't look like it when he rushed the quarterback at JSerra. The senior was relentless.
"He's a big kid and he can move around," Brinkley said of the 6-foot, 217-pound Acadine, who not only knocked down the quarterback, but whoever tried to block him.
"We're just trying to get him to understand the system. Hopefully by the time we get into [Sunset League play] he'll have it figured out and he'll get a lot more time."