Celebrated former Newport Harbor defensive end inspires with his singing and songwriting – Orange County Register

Friends like to ask Jeff Bitetti for important favors, and none are more powerful than the personalized songs he writes and sings at weddings and funerals.

Fellow former Newport Harbor High football players Brian Theriot and Joe Kolina, among many others, have had Bitetti perform at memorial services after the loss of family loved ones.

You wouldn’t think a fierce defensive tough guy and sack specialist would also be a thespian, singer/songwriter and entertainer who is completing a second album.

“I can belt it out if I need to,” said Bitetti, whose booming voice can wake up a crowd, as well as provide inspiration and comfort for those grieving with the faith-based lyrics in his tribute songs.

He said he has always had a love for music and performed in the school’s musicals. His talents as a musician and songwriter helped pay for his USC education.

Bitetti, who ministers to families at CHOC Children’s Hospital in Orange and foster youth at the Orangewood Foundation, didn’t need his voice to make things clear 40 years ago as one of the stalwarts on the Sailors’ vaunted defensive front, attacking opposing quarterbacks with style and vengeance to set a school single-season sack record of 18.

In 1977, Coach Bill Pizzica’s Sailors advanced to the semifinals of the CIF-Southern Section Big Five Conference playoffs, the first of back-to-back semifinal appearances in the Division I equivalent.

While Bitetti’s ministry touches hearts these days, his laughs and one-liners created a particular stir during the tense moments of their memorable season.

“Jeff Bitetti did an excellent job at keeping the team loose with his special brand of humor,” former Newport Harbor quarterback Craig Lyons said.

It had been three years since Harbor made the playoffs, and the Sailors reached new territory with playoff wins over St. Francis in the first round, 21-15, on the road, and against West Covina in the quarterfinals, 14-10, in the Sailors’ home game at Orange Coast College. They lost to St. Paul in the semifinals, 20-6, at Cerritos College, and finished 9-3.

In addition to Bitetti, a defensive end, tight end and punter, the Sunset League runner-up Sailors were led by two-way lineman Doug Brockmeyer, Don Barker, the late Wayne Kasparek, Frank Venclik and Bobby Brown.

A spirited father of three young boys, Bitetti grew up in Newport-Mesa and played football with all the same kids throughout Pop Warner and high school.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re…

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