Earlier this week, as his winless Spartans were practicing for their game against Grant High, Sylmar High football Coach Tom Richards was looking for answers. Any answers.
"I've checked with Camarillo State Hospital and I'm scouting a 67-year-old patient who thinks he's Knute Rockne," Richards said. "I haven't killed myself yet. Forest Lawn is booked. But I'm not shaving with a blade in my razor."
After Sylmar had shut out the Lancers, 16-0, Friday afternoon, Richards said his face will finally get a close shave this weekend, thanks to a dodging, sprinting and passing Sean Hampton.
"We weren't going to try to fake anyone out," Richards said. "We're going to give the ball to the young man who's the threat."
Hampton has gained an average of 5.7 yards a carry this season, exactly his average Friday in 26 carries as he picked up 149 yards. The junior tailback also was responsible for nine of the 10 Sylmar first downs.
His longest run, a 43-yarder, put the ball on the Grant six in the final minute of the third quarter. Two plays later, Hampton crashed into the end zone from the five. Richard Hetherington kicked the extra point for a 7-0 Sylmar lead.
On Grant's next possession, Sylmar's Charles Grove led a powerful Spartan defense with his second sack, throwing Jay Onga for a 13-yard loss. On the next play, Charles Martinez blocked Sean Pettway's punt and the ball caromed out of the end zone for a safety, giving Sylmar a 9-0 lead with eight minutes left in the game.
Later in the final quarter, Sylmar's Kenny Frank picked off a pass from Onga and returned it 13 yards to the Grant 21. Hampton followed with a 14-yard run and quarterback Shawn Fontenot scored on a seven-yard run. Hetherington kicked the PAT to close out the scoring.
Onga was intercepted again on the first play of the ensuing series. Under heavy pressure, he lobbed a pass into the arms of Grove with one minute left in the game.
Onga finished with 84 yards, completing 9 of 15 passes.
In addition to his 149 rushing yards, Hampton was inserted at quarterback for three plays in the first half and completed 2 of 3 passes for 27 yards.
Sylmar and Grant are 1-5 overall and 1-3 in the Pac 8 League.