Punishing a team or coach for admitted rule breaking is not as easy as it might seem.
Ask Barbara Fiege, the City Section commissioner who has spent much of the last week explaining why the Sylmar High football team received only probation for holding an illegal scrimmage last month.
"People think if you don't do something drastic for breaking the rules that it's only a slap on the wrist," said Fiege, who is finishing her first year as the section's first female commissioner. "But you have to know all the facts before coming to that conclusion."
The facts are that Sylmar, which won a section title in 1992, conducted a passing scrimmage against Pierce College in Woodland Hills on Aug. 9, violating two section rules.
Coach Jeff Engilman said he had been unaware that it was a violation to hold a scrimmage after Aug. 1 or that it was against the rules to use in scrimmages players who do not meet the CIF's age requirements.
Complicating matters was that Sylmar was on probation last fall for holding an illegal practice over the Labor Day holiday. Many area coaches said two violations in one year warranted a stiffer punishment.
The City Rules Committee reviewed the testimony and put Sylmar on two years' probation and penalized the team the loss of two practice sessions.
"The message to me is that you are going to get two or three probations before anything happens to you," said Joel Schaeffer, Reseda's football coach.
Fiege said two years' probation is more than a slap on the wrist. She also noted that Engilman had been punished by his own administration, although the school has not revealed the nature of that punishment.
"People may say the City doesn't have the guts to punish anyone, but I don't think that's true," Fiege said. "You just have to be consistent with what you do."
Sylmar was not the only football team put on probation last week. Locke was put on for a year for allegedly recruiting players from the Fremont district.
Fremont coaches initiated the charges and several of their players testified that they had been contacted by coaches from Locke.
"We'll continue to investigate charges of recruiting," Fiege said. "We let both sides present their case and review the facts and testimony."
There is no City Section football record book, but if there was, Di-Onte Smith of Van Nuys Grant would certainly have earned himself a spot in it last Friday.
The senior running back rushed for 352 yards in 19 carries and scored three touchdowns in a 20-15 nonconference victory over visiting Marshall. Smith, 5-10 and 180 pounds, scored on runs of 79, 98, and 69 yards. He had 208 yards in eight carries at halftime.
Smith's previous best was 225 yards and three touchdowns against Belmont last year. He gained 143 yards in a 15-15 tie against Verdugo Hills in the opener Sept. 9.
Bloomington's football team has outscored opponents this season, 170-8. What makes the statistic even more impressive is that the Bruins have played only two games.
"I'm not uncomfortable with how big we've been winning because the kids are just out there doing their thing and not taking cheap shots," said Don Markham, Bloomington's first-year coach. "We have things under control."
Bloomington opened with an 86-8 victory at Big Bear on Sept. 10, then beat Notre Dame last Friday at Riverside Community College, 84-0.
Markham installed a double-wing offense, which relies primarily on senior backs Cheyane Caldwell and Greg Oliver. Quarterback Jason Buell has thrown only eight passes.
"We run sort of a USC sweep-type offense," said Markham, 55, who won a Southern Section title in 1978 while coaching at Colton. "We only run a few plays, so if the defense can't stop us, the score can get sort of high."
The Bruins, 1-9 last season, compete in the Southern Section's Sunkist League. The school is 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles near Fontana.
It could be another lopsided victory Friday night when Bloomington plays host to Hemet West Valley, which has been outscored, 116-0.
The quarterback controversy continues at Westlake, where Coach Jim Benkert is still trying to pick a starter from three candidates.
Benkert had planned to alternate the three prospects in Friday's game against Ventura but abandoned the plan when starter Steve Spruill performed so well. Spruill, a senior, left midway through the fourth quarter after passing for 289 yards and three touchdowns in a 52-26 victory.
He was replaced by Brian Shubin, a senior transfer from Woodland Hills Taft who completed five of seven passes for 47 yards and a touchdown. Junior Steve Aylsworth started on defense but did not take any snaps.
Times' Top 20 Football Poll
The Times' top 20 high school football poll, with teams from the City and Southern Sections.
School Sect. Div. Rec. LW 1. Bishop Amat SS I 2-0 1 2. Los Alamitos SS I 2-0 2 3. Mater Dei SS I 2-0 3 4. Westlake SS III 2-0 6 5. Loyola SS I 2-0 7 6. Irvine SS V 2-0 9 7. Hart SS II 2-0 10 8. Antelope Valley SS II 2-0 8 9. LB Poly SS I 2-0 14 10. Esperanza SS I 1-1 5 11. Sylmar City 4-A 2-0 12 12. LB Jordan SS I 2-0 11 13. Trabuco Hills SS I 2-0 13 14. Eisenhower SS I 1-1 16 15. St. Paul SS I 2-0 15 16. Muir SS II 1-1 4 17. Fontana SS I 1-1 17 18. Paramount SS II 2-0 19 19. Quartz Hill SS II 2-0 NR 20. Canyon Springs SS IV 1-1 NR