Jeff Engilman, Sylmar High's football coach, can't put his finger on it. If he could, the fiery bulldog task master would certainly lay both hands on the problem and fix it immediately.
Despite Engilman's disappointment with his team's lackluster performance, Sylmar recorded its 57th consecutive Valley Pac-8 Conference victory by defeating host Grant, 21-7, Friday afternoon.
"I don't know," Engilman said. "Something's missing, but I don't know what it is. If I was going to blame anyone, I'd blame the offensive line."
The offensive line, problematic since the second week because of injuries and lack of depth, cleared the way for Errol Bowen's 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 15 carries, but did little else against a defense that allows an average of 220 yards on the ground.
Worse still, Sylmar two-way tackle and college prospect Ray Solis was ejected for fighting early in the fourth quarter and will have to sit out next week's key conference game against Monroe.
One of few bright spots was the Spartan defense, which intercepted five passes. Senior free safety Shaun Avalos had three interceptions.
But the defense is certainly not above scrutiny. Two more sure interceptions were dropped. And after allowing just five yards in the first half, Sylmar, 6-1 overall and 4-0 in the conference, gave up 133 yards in the second.
Offensive problems surfaced throughout. After scoring 21 unanswered points in the first half, Sylmar managed only four first downs in five second-half possessions and did not score.
Sylmar scored on its first possession on a 69-yard drive after an interception by linebacker Joey LaPorte. Bowen, who ran five times for 51 yards in the drive, scored on an eight-yard run only five minutes into the game.
But the Spartans fumbled on their next two possessions. Donald Carpenter fumbled on his first carry, was benched for most of the first half and finished with five carries.
A 40-yard interception return for a touchdown by Corey Neal gave Sylmar a 14-0 lead after the first quarter.
The Spartans made the score 21-0 on a 40-yard run by Bowen in the second quarter.
Grant fell to 2-5, 0-4.