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THE HIGH SCHOOLS / ROB FERNAS

Intensity Resurfaces at Sylmar With Return of Engilman

September 29, 1996|Rob Fernas

That voice (screaming).

That face (red and contorted).

Those eyes (bulging).

Yes, Jeff Engilman was back coaching in a game Friday night. And it must have been a beautiful sight, and sound, to Sylmar High's football team.

After serving a two-game suspension imposed by the City Section, the animated Engilman returned to the sideline and proudly watched the Spartans put up a fight against Antelope Valley before losing, 28-21, at Sylmar.

"I can't complain," Engilman said. "Well, I could complain, but who's going to listen?"

For the last two weeks, Engilman has stressed improvement and pride to his players. His message appears to have gotten through to the Spartans (1-2), who resembled a different team than the one that was embarrassed in a season-opening, 30-6 loss to Taft.

"It was a different team--that's what I told the kids [Friday] night," Engilman said. "Even though we lost and there were some tears, they felt pretty damn good about themselves. That's what I was really proud of."

If not for two costly mistakes, Sylmar might have beaten Antelope Valley (3-0), one of the area's most talented and disciplined teams. The Spartans set up an Antelope touchdown in the first quarter when return man Errol Bowen failed to pick up the ball on a kickoff and Brad Clark pounced on it at the Sylmar seven-yard-line. Later in game, with the score tied, 21-21, the Spartans lost a fumble inside the Antelope Valley 10.

Engilman wasn't perfect, either. He once sent in the punt team on third down.

But the positives outweighed the negatives, and Engilman was glad to be shouting at his players rather than scouting opponents, a duty he performed the previous two weeks.

"It's terrible to work with a bunch of kids all week and not be able to see them play the game," he said. "You start to wonder, 'Well, if I were there, could we have made these adjustments?' It's one of the toughest things I've ever done."

An easier task was keeping his volatile temper under control. Even though Engilman could be heard chewing out players who blew assignments, he won a bet with his assistants by refraining from throwing his headset during the game.

"Everybody thought I was going to go nuts," he said. "I thought I was calm and collected."

*

Engilman considers Sylmar a contender for the City Section 4-A Division title, a race that appears wide open after Taft routed defending champion Dorsey, 42-6, at Jackie Robinson Stadium.

It was the Dons' first loss to a Valley school since San Fernando beat them in '87.

Engilman, who enjoyed success against Dorsey when he coached at Manual Arts but is 0-1 against the Dons during his career at Sylmar, said Taft (3-0) played the Dons (1-2) at the right time.

"As much as I know [Dorsey Coach] Paul Knox, it's always best to get Dorsey early," he said. "You don't want to get them late. But to beat them like that at Jackie Robinson Stadium, that's quite an accomplishment.

"Taft could be the best team in the City."

*

Hart football Coach Mike Herrington complained that a "phantom" penalty cost the Indians a two-point conversion and perhaps more in a 26-24 loss to Westlake.

Chris Wright's catch on a conversion was nullified after a Hart receiver was called for offensive pass interference. The Indians failed on their subsequent two-point conversion attempt, leaving them with an 18-13 lead early in the third quarter instead of a 20-13 advantage.

"The back judge said our receiver blocked downfield in the end zone," Herrington said after reviewing videotape Saturday. "It was just a terrible call. No way did our receiver initiate any contact. In fact, he's being held while he's trying to break away. You can see his jersey being pulled. It just boggles the mind how the back judge can make that call."

Hart (1-2) missed on three two-point conversions, the last with 43 seconds to play, after botching a point-after kick on its first touchdown.

After losses to Thousand Oaks (2-0-1) and Westlake (3-0), Hart continues a demanding nonleague schedule in the next two weeks by playing Palmdale (3-0) and Loyola (3-0).

*

If Notre Dame High looked past Beverly Hills, it paid dearly. The Normans, who were definitely fired up to play the Knights, reveled in their 14-7 victory Friday night at Notre Dame.

"It's a great win not only for the team but for the program," Beverly Hills Coach Carter Paysinger said. "To beat a team with the stature of Notre Dame, to play with them and win the game on the road is a huge accomplishment."

Notre Dame Coach Kevin Rooney suggested his team was not emotionally prepared.

"We came out flat," he said.

*

It's a natural reaction. Two Southland high school football players die this month, shortly after games, and parents become concerned for the safety of their children.

Amy Joyce was prompted to schedule an extensive physical examination for her son, Cody Joyce, a standout wide receiver and defensive back at Hart. The battery of tests, not covered by insurance, cost the family $1,500.

Amy Joyce considers it money well spent to achieve "complete peace of mind," even though Cody has a clean medical history. Among other procedures, the 6-foot-2, 190-pound senior underwent electrocardiogram and treadmill stress tests.

Dr. Richard Ferkel, director of athletic training for the Southern California Orthopedic Institute in Van Nuys and the clinical instructor of orthopedic surgery at UCLA, said no conclusions should be drawn from the deaths of Reseda's Eric Hoggatt and Coronado's Adrian Taufaasau until more tests have been completed and the autopsies are released.

"I think it's important that people don't panic and overreact to these two tragedies," Ferkel said. "We don't know what caused them."

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