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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Game Day

A Look at Today's Key Matchups

November 16, 2000

HIGH SCHOOL

* GRANT (7-3) vs. SYLMAR (10-0)

At Sylmar High, 7 p.m.

This game brings memories of the old Valley Pac-8 Conference, and fond memories they are for Sylmar. The majority of the Spartans' 69 consecutive league victories--a streak that ended last season--came in Valley Pac-8 games. Grant was an annual victim. That shouldn't change, despite the best efforts of Lancer tailback Perry Clayton, who leads the region with 2,318 yards rushing. Grant has won six in a row but hasn't faced an opponent as powerful as No. 2-seeded Sylmar. Spartan linebackers Josh Martin and Isidro Medina are two of the City's best, as is defensive back-receiver Felipe Samano. John Valdez has completed 65% of his passes for 1,560 yards and 17 touchdowns. He might find holes in the secondary, which allowed a state-record 750 yards passing to David Koral of Palisades. Medina, a 235-pound fullback, has rushed for 15 touchdowns. Sylmar allows an average of only 255 yards a game.

* MARSHALL (9-1) vs. TAFT (8-2)

At Taft, 7 p.m.

Not since 1961 has Marshall advanced to the City Championship division of the football playoffs. The Barristers won the Northern League championship and have the kind of size on the offensive line that has caused Taft trouble. Running back Danatis Dargis is Marshall's best weapon. If Taft expects to send out retiring Coach Troy Starr with a City Championship, the defense must come through. Linebackers Kris Govea and Lance Broadus will be key figures. It's the first playoff start for Ricky Clausen, who's having an All-City season with 2,910 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. Ditto for sophomore Steve Smith, who has caught 82 passes for 1,412 yards and 14 touchdowns. A victory by eighth-seeded Taft would probably set up a quarterfinal showdown with top-seeded Crenshaw on Wednesday.

* PALISADES (8-2) vs. BIRMINGHAM (9-1)

At Birmingham High, 7 p.m.

Birmingham's loss to Chatsworth last week hurt its playoff draw. Palisades possesses the City's most potent passing attack and lost only to Cleveland in its opener and to Westchester last week. David Koral has passed for 3,963 yards and 43 touchdowns. Receivers Greig Carlson, Charles Ealy and Jacques Lazarus each have more than 60 receptions. Carlson, a transfer from Taft, has scored 19 touchdowns. Dolphin running back Lionel Gentry has only 371 yards but averages nearly 10 yards a carry. Koral has been sacked often and against Westchester he had six passes intercepted. Birmingham is much more balanced. Kevin McCleary has rushed for 1,171 yards and 19 touchdowns. Scott Jensen has passed for 1,908 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Patriots have tremendous athletes in their secondary, including John Walker, Ramal Porter, Chad Green and McCleary.

* GRANADA HILLS (7-3) vs. WESTCHESTER (9-1)

At Westchester High, 7 p.m.

No. 3-seeded Westchester won the Western League title by defeating Palisades last week. Running back Jhalib Sinclair and quarterback Jason Benson key Westchester's wishbone attack, which will be difficult for the Highlanders to prepare for in a short week of practice. Granada Hills will have difficulty moving the ball without receiver Joey Rodriguez, who has missed the last two games because of an injury. Rodriguez, who has 24 catches, a 24.1-yard average and nine touchdowns, is the Highlanders' only deep receiving threat. Robert Ortega, with 857 yards, runs inside and Bryan Wilson, with 728, runs outside, giving the Highlanders a balanced rushing attack. Granada Hills leads City teams in the region with 16 interceptions, but Westchester might not throw enough for that total to increase. Bobby Baca of Granada Hills has had only four passes intercepted, but Westchester picked off six against Palisades.

* BANNING (4-6) vs. KENNEDY (8-1-1)

At Kennedy High, 7 p.m.

Banning, which won the Invitational title last season, is the only team in the Championship playoffs with a losing record. However, it is deceiving. The Pilots played a brutal nonleague schedule, beating only St. Paul and losing to Taft, Mater Dei, Long Beach Poly and Crenshaw. Banning went on to finish third in the Marine League. Kennedy's innovative offense has produced 403 yards and 44 points a game. Adam Geery has passed for 1,926 yards and 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions. Efren Lopez, who has 51 catches for 973 yards and 13 touchdowns, and James Norris, with 41 for 728 yards and six scores, are receiving threats. Norris has rushed for 423 yards and six touchdowns, passed for two touchdowns and returned three kicks for touchdowns. Jerome Williams, a tough, elusive tailback, has rushed for 1,451 yards and 23 touchdowns. Kennedy lost only to Sylmar and tied Palmdale.

* INVITATIONAL PLAYOFFS

2 p.m.--San Fernando at Eagle Rock; 7 p.m.--Chatsworth at Venice; Narbonne at Cleveland; Canoga Park at Franklin; Fremont at North Hollywood; Van Nuys at Roosevelt.

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