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Resurgent Sylmar Climbs Back from Oblivion

November 12, 1998

Sylmar High is quietly working on a six-game winning streak since opening the season with losses to Notre Dame and Hart, the region's Nos. 1- and 2-ranked teams by The Times, and a tie against Antelope Valley.

"Let them keep forgetting about me," Coach Jeff Engilman said. "We only played Notre Dame, who almost beat Bishop Amat and knocked off Loyola, and we should have won the game."

Engilman no longer seems upset about Sylmar's 49-26 loss to Hart, considering what Hart quarterback Kyle Boller has gone on to accomplish.

"To our credit, we're one of the only teams who kept him under 300 yards [passing]," Engilman said. "There's a little lining under the clouds. That's an achievement in itself."

More importantly, the Spartans have been getting healthy and developing players who could make them contenders for the City Section title when the playoffs begin next Thursday.

Cornerback T.K. Reed, the point guard for the basketball team, came out late for football and has stabilized the secondary. Junior running back David Contreras has exceeded expectations with 929 yards rushing and nine touchdowns.

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The recruiting derby for Hart's Boller keeps expanding. Tennessee has convinced the quarterback to schedule a recruiting visit, along with Florida State, Oregon, California and Colorado.

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Running back Major Caldwell of San Fernando has a chance to break the 28-year-old school rushing record set by Anthony Davis in 1970. Caldwell has rushed for 1,298 yards. Davis' school record is 1,566.

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Only conference champions are guaranteed berths in the City Section playoffs. On Saturday, a seeding committee will meet to put together the pairings.

The strongest 16 teams are supposed to be included in the City Championship bracket, with the next 16 teams placed in the Division Championship bracket. Formerly, teams were placed in 4-A and 3-A divisions.

Based on league standings, here are the likely City Championship participants: Five teams are expected to make it out of the Southern Pacific Conference--Dorsey (6-2-1, 5-1), Banning (6-3, 5-1), Crenshaw (6-3, 5-1), Carson (5-4, 4-2) and two-time defending champion San Pedro (5-4, 2-4). Franklin (9-0, 6-0) is the qualifier from the Northern Conference. Venice (9-0, 6-0), Westchester (7-2, 5-1) and Palisades (6-3, 4-2) are the likely Coastal representatives. Locke (6-3, 6-1), Roosevelt (6-2, 5-2), Jefferson (6-3, 5-2) and South Gate (6-3, 5-2) are possible entries from the Southeastern.

Sylmar (6-2-1, 6-0) is favored to make it from the Valley Pac-8. Granada Hills (9-0, 6-0), Taft (8-1, 6-0) and Kennedy (6-3, 4-2) will qualify from the Northwest Valley. Van Nuys (7-2, 5-1) from the Valley Pac-8 or another team from the Northwest Valley--El Camino Real (4-4-1, 3-3), Chatsworth (5-4, 2-4) or San Fernando (5-4, 2-4)--could make it.

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One of the season's better comeback stories is Greg Rountree, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior tailback at Camarillo who is playing football for the first time since his freshman year. He leads the team with 580 rushing yards and has helped the Scorpions (7-2, 3-0) to a seven-game winning streak.

Two years of academic ineligibility sidelined Rountree, who said his shortcomings were caused by too much fun and too little homework.

"I was more interested in having a good time, but it was awful watching the other guys play," he said. "I hated myself for a while there."

Soft-spoken and courteous, Rountree decided to change things midway through his junior year. He enrolled in Camarillo's independent study program, where students hold full-time jobs and turn in academic work once a week. Counselors told Rountree that using the program to accelerate his pace was the only way he could graduate with his classmates.

"Some days I'm not sure I'm going to make it, but I will," Rountree said. "I need something to remember high school for more than parties, and [playing] will be something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

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Crescenta Valley has rediscovered winning and the result is a Pacific League title showdown Friday night against Arcadia.

The Falcons (6-3, 3-1 in league play) have overcome key injuries and a 3-3 start to put themselves in position to win their second consecutive league title.

Quarterback Scott Vossmeyer returned last week from a broken ankle that had sidelined him for four weeks, but he will be used as a receiver and backup quarterback for the rest of the season.

Vossmeyer won the starting job after platooning for three weeks with Seth Santoro. Vossmeyer had a 21-yard reception in Crescenta Valley's 42-0 victory over Glendale last week.

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