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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Sylmar Wins on a Wing and a Prayer, 21-17

City: Tight end Wrighster throws to Neal for 59-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left to dethrone San Pedro.

November 20, 1998|MICHAEL LAZARUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYLMAR — Apparently it takes every trick in the book to dethrone two-time defending City Section champions.

But the final one finally worked for Sylmar High in a 21-17 victory over San Pedro in the first round of the City Championship playoffs Thursday night at Sylmar.

Tight end George Wrighster of Sylmar caught a lateral from quarterback Noah Albiston on a bounce and threw a pass to a wide-open Corey Neal.

"The toughest part was catching it," Neal said.

Neal outraced the Pirate secondary to the end zone to complete the 59-yard pass play with 13 seconds remaining.

"It really was a miracle," said Coach Jeff Engilman of Sylmar.

Sylmar, which won the 4-A title in 1992 and '94, will host Banning, a 56-0 winner over Roosevelt, in a quarterfinal Wednesday.

Fourth-seeded Sylmar used plenty of other trickery trying to erase a second-half deficit.

Trailing, 10-7, the fourth-seeded Spartans (8-2-1) called a fumblerooski in the third quarter, with lineman Juan Rodriguez rumbling untouched for 13 yards and an apparent touchdown. But Sylmar was called for illegal procedure because the officials were not informed. The Spartans later turned the ball over on downs.

After a touchdown by Neal trimmed San Pedro's lead to 17-14 midway through the fourth quarter, the Spartans recovered an onside kick.

But on the ensuing drive, a 45-yard touchdown run by Neal was called back because of an illegal block.

Sylmar turned the ball over on downs again with two minutes left.

San Pedro (6-5) failed to get a first down and was forced to punt with 40 seconds left, setting up the Spartans' last gasp.

Coach Mike Walsh of San Pedro said he tried to call a time out before the bounce pass because he knew the play was coming, but apparently no one heard him.

"Sometimes fate goes your way, sometimes it doesn't," Walsh said.

Neal had 198 yards and a touchdown in a career-high 32 carries as Albiston struggled.

Albiston completed three of 12 passes for 15 yards and threw an interception that Joseph Montoya returned 93 yards for a touchdown to give San Pedro a 17-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Chris Harrell gained 128 yards in 16 carries and scored on a 56-yard run on the second play of the game for San Pedro.

Neal tied it, 7-7, on a one-yard dive with 3 1/2 minutes left in the second quarter.

San Pedro took a 10-7 lead on a 41-yard field goal by Sean Rittgers on the final play of the first half.

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