LONG BEACH — Ed Orgeron, the former USC football interim head coach, was scheduled to speak at the annual CIF Southern Section football championship luncheon Monday at the Grand Hotel in Long Beach.
But Orgeron canceled because of his situation at USC, where he stepped down after Steve Sarkisian was named the coach. The news of Orgeron's absence didn't seem to faze any of the players and coaches in the room. They were already feeling great about being there.
Many other teams in the Southern Section would want to be in the same place on Monday. The coaches and a few of players from each team were there to represent their squads that will be playing for a championship this week.
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It is a special event. For Newport Harbor High and Corona del Mar it's a special time.
For the first time in Newport Beach history the town's two public schools, Newport Harbor and CdM, will be playing for a CIF title in the same season.
Newport Harbor Coach Jeff Brinkley and CdM Coach Scott Meyer had great reason to be proud at the luncheon.
"It really speaks highly of the city and the type of athletes who are around there," Brinkley said.
Meyer, whose Sea Kings beat the Sailors in this year's Battle of the Bay, noted many of the players on each team grew up together and competed on teams during their childhood. There's respect between the teams and it wouldn't be surprising to see Newport Harbor players at CdM's game and Sea Kings at the Sailors' game.
"This is special for the community," Meyer said.
CdM will play first, Friday night at 7 at Orange Coast College. The Sea Kings are going for their third straight Southern Division championship, playing against Garden Grove in the final for the second consecutive year.
Meyer stressed that his team is not looking past Garden Grove, but the Sea Kings are well aware of the big picture and are motivated that a win would produce a berth in the state playoffs.
"Garden Grove definitely has our attention," Meyer said. "But I think we all understand that if we play well Friday night we'll move on to the state playoffs. By no means are we looking past Garden Grove. They are an experienced team."
The Southwest Division championship features two teams from the Sunset League that are playing with great momentum.
Newport Beach, which finished second in the Sunset League, will take on Huntington Beach, the Sunset League's fifth-place team, Saturday at 2 p.m. at Angel Stadium.
The last time the teams met, Huntington Beach stopped the Sailors from earning the share of the Sunset League title, and also earned an at-large berth with a 40-14 win. But the Sailors contend they are a different team now.
They certainly stepped up their game with wins over Dana Hills, top-seeded La Habra and Fullerton in the semifinals.
It truly is a special time for CdM and Newport Harbor.
Brinkley, along with Newport Harbor Principal Sean Boulton and Athletic Director Mike Zimmerman received a tour at Angel Stadium Monday before arriving at the luncheon.
"It's exciting to be there [at Angel Stadium]," Brinkley said. "It's going to give [the Sailors] the feeling of big-time football and I think they deserve that after a long tough season."