Football fans, book worms, history buffs, and locals who enjoy a night of hosted food and drinks with live music, will all come together this weekend for a celebratory dinner party and book signing.
The event will be held Sunday from 5–7:30 p.m. at Newport Beach Golf Course, and will feature Newport Beach resident and local award-winning sportswriter Richard Dunn, author of “14 Weeks: The Most Improbable High School Football Season in History.”
The book chronicles Newport Harbor High School’ varsity football team’s shocking 14-0 campaign and first CIF title in 64 years of varsity football at the school during a legendary 1994 season.
“(The book is really) about people, trusting your buddy, and relationships,” Dunn said in a recent interview. “The wins and losses are not the point… It’s really about a group of kids who wanted to do something special.”
The event is free and open to the public, with hosted food and drinks and a live band. Dunn will sign copies of his newly released, self-published book. “14 Weeks” is available in paperback and online through Kindle Amazon.
City, county, and state representatives will be in attendance, and the city will present a city proclamation to the first-time author and every player and member of the coaching staff.
Legendary former Newport Harbor football coach Jeff Brinkley, who guided the Sailors to eight CIF championship games and three section titles in 32 years, will sign a free copy of the book for each player on the 1994 team with a personalized note.
A second book signing is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. at Lido Village Books.
It was a big deal at the time, recalled Dunn, who covered the team as a sports writer for the Daily Pilot at the time. They were the “plum” team to cover, he added.
“They were unproven, untested, and underrated,” Dunn opined.
Fellow local sports writer Barry Faulkner predicted the team would “hit a wall,” Dunn recalled.
“It’s not just about posting ‘W’s, it’s about how they did it,” he commented. “They were winning nail-biters… They came from behind (during several games).”
Dunn recounted the epic Battle of the Bay game between Newport Harbor and their across town rivals, the Sea Kings at Corona del Mar High School.
In the closing seconds of the game, with NHHS leading by one point, they had their back up against a wall as Corona del Mar was set to kick a “chip shot” (a relatively close and easy field goal) from 25 yards to win the game.
“But the Sea Kings instead tried to center the ball,” to get in a better position for the kick, he explained.
After a timeout with 20 seconds left on the clock, a fumble foiled CdM’s rally and provided a gift near the goal line for Newport Harbor as they recovered the pigskin, Dunn writes in the book.
“There was pandemonium in the stands,” he writes. “If the roar was loud upon the Sailors’ entrance into the stadium to begin the game, this time it was a tsunami that flooded Newport Beach.
Newport Harbor took home a tough fought 7-6 win to continue their undefeated streak.
The entire season is an inspiring story and Dunn hopes it will inspire others,
“How we go through life together, we’re in the foxhole with others, and how we treat others,” Dunn said, “these things are important.”
The idea for the book came about 10 or 15 years later, he explained.
“We thought we should revisit (the significant season),” Dunn said.
Dunn interviewed Brinkley, most of the opposing coaches, starting and other significant NHHS players, and others that were involved in the saga of a season in 1994.
It took about two and a half years to complete, from start to finish.
“It’s a monster,” Dunn commented.
The biggest challenge was actually getting it published, he said, until he got a push in the right direction from a friend.
This has been a life-changing process, he said, “it’s opened up a whole world of book writing.”
Dunn has some plans in the works for other sports books, including one detailing his own life playing baseball, covering sports for newspapers, and other insights.
Newport Harbor High School’s varsity football team is currently 7-0, which, poetically, is the time that’s happened since the legendary 1994 season, Dunn pointed out.
The Sailors face Los Alamitos on Friday at home in Newport Beach. It will be a tough game, Dunn admitted.
But, if NHHS comes out on top, they will head into the annual Battle of the Bay matchup next week undefeated. Corona del Mar is also currently undefeated. If the Sea Kings also win this Friday, the two teams from opposite sides of the bay, will both go into the annual battle undefeated, which is the first time that’s happened since 1977.
“It will really be something special,” Dunn said. “It will be mayhem.”
For more information, visit 14weeksthebook.com.