TORRANCE — Migraine headaches kept Sylmar High's star running back Durell Price off the practice field for two days this week, but the intense pain in his head wasn't enough to slow the conductor of the Spartan Express, which rolled through the City Section Division 4-A championship game without a hitch.
Price scored the first two times he touched the ball and finished with 166 yards and three touchdowns in 19 carries to pace Sylmar's 38-6 rout of Crenshaw in the City 4-A final in front of about 4,000 Saturday at El Camino College.
"I was questionable for the game, but I said, 'Hey, this is what I've been working for all year. I'm not gonna sit out for nothing,' " said Price, who scored on runs of 38, 25 and eight yards. "If I can walk, I'm gonna play."
Price's first and second carries looked like a walk in the park, thanks in part to an inspired offensive line that enabled Sylmar to score on three of its first six plays.
"We've been challenging (the offensive line) for the last two weeks because we knew how physical these teams are," said Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman, who is unbeaten in four City championship appearances.
"And they came through remarkably. That's where the game is won--on the defensive and offensive lines."
After Crenshaw went three-and-out on the game's opening drive, Sylmar quarterback Greg Marquez completed passes of 22 and 12 yards on the Spartans' first two plays to set the stage for Price, who left the game often because of headaches, shortness of breath and nausea.
Price took a pitch, darted left, shook off an attempted ankle tackle near the line of scrimmage and raced 38 yards down the Sylmar sideline for a 7-0 lead.
Crenshaw (12-2) responded with its best drive of the day, going 69 yards in 14 plays and scoring on a five-yard run by Brandon Seals (54 yards in 16 carries) to close to 7-6.
But the rest of the game belonged to Sylmar (14-0), which notched its second City title in three years.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Marquez connected with Davon Young over the middle on a 62-yard scoring play for a 14-6 lead.
Daniel Hernandez recovered a squib kick and the Spartans set up shop again, this time at the Crenshaw 32.
After a seven-yard run by Young, Price took a handoff on the next play, bolted through a hole, then went untouched for a 25-yard touchdown and a 21-6 lead.
"I saw a hole about five yards wide and I just ran through it," Price said. "I ran to daylight."
The Spartan coaching staff put the offensive line on the hot seat Saturday--and the linemen responded, paving the way for a 351-yard offensive effort.
"Everybody kept telling us if we don't win, it's gonna be the line's fault. So we had to step it up all week in practice," said senior Brandon McGee, a starting center and nose guard who also played for Sylmar's 1992 championship team.
Both teams stalled on second-quarter possessions, until Crenshaw got a break.
A Crenshaw punt glanced off Young's foot and Crenshaw's Karlos Dixon recovered at the Sylmar 13 late in the half.
But two plays later, Young made amends by intercepting Ricky Lumford's pass at the three to preserve the Spartans' 21-6 halftime lead.
The Spartans dominated the second half--limiting the Cougars to 19 yards--and left Crenshaw Coach Robert Garrett all but speechless.
"It's not a good idea for me to say anything at this time," said Garrett, who refused to answer any postgame questions. "There's just nothing to say."
Marquez, who completed seven of 11 for 154 yards, capped a 75-yard scoring drive with a 13-yard pass to Galdino Cortes to open the second half.
Crenshaw gained only three yards in its next two possessions and Sylmar got the ball on the Crenshaw 41 after a shanked punt.
Price, whose 1,936 yards rushing this season make him the prime candidate for 4-A player of the year honors, scored his third touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter on an eight-yard run, breaking four tackles to get into the end zone.
"I don't think he had the explosiveness today," Engilman said. "He looked like he was a little slow and that's why we kept pulling him out."