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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

High School Notebook

Valley Teams Rise in Fall This Season

November 22, 2000|STEVE HENSON

Sylmar, Taft, Birmingham and Granada Hills play City Championship quarterfinals tonight.

And it's not baseball season.

Valley high school teams dominate City Section diamonds, but rarely do they gang up like this on the gridiron.

It could be that San Pedro, Crenshaw, Carson and Banning all win tonight and form prevails. Other than Taft in 1998 and Sylmar in 1992 and '94, those schools have won most of the City titles in the last three decades.

Then again. . . .

"All season I've thought the Valley was as strong as the teams over the hill," said Kennedy Coach Bob Francola, whose team was upset by Banning last week. "It's a wide-open race."

*

Valley teams rely on finesse. Los Angeles teams rely on power.

There is truth to the stereotype. Taft, Granada Hills and Birmingham are well-coached teams with little size and loads of quickness and ingenuity.

Sylmar, however, bucks the trend.

"We are not a normal Valley team," Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman said. "We are really like a rock 'em, sock 'em Marine League team."

San Pedro, Sylmar's opponent, is the genuine article, a Marine League power with burly linemen and a hard-running tailback in Alex Teems.

"He reminds me a lot of [Reseda's] Eddie Robinson," Engilman said. "I told our guys to be ready to get socked in the mouth."

Sylmar has its own physical players, led by linebacker-tight end Josh Martin and linebacker-fullback Isidro Medina. But if necessary the Spartans will use trick plays in the best tradition of a cerebral Valley team.

Two years ago, Sylmar defeated San Pedro on a play where quarterback Noah Albiston purposely bounced a lateral pass to George Wrighster, who threw a touchdown pass to Corey Neal. The Spartans also tried a fumblerooski in the game.

"At the seeding meeting this year the San Pedro coaches said to me, 'No bounce passes and no fumblerooskies,' " Engilman said.

Trust Engilman to have something up his sleeve.

*

Granada Hills' upset of No. 3-seeded Westchester was especially meaningful because it was the Highlanders' first victory against a top opponent.

"We've struggled against the better teams," co-Coach Tom Harp said. "This was a team favored to beat us and we were able to win."

The Highlanders (8-3) must take to the road again tonight against Banning, and that means battling freeway traffic. Harp's plan is for the bus to take an alternate route than the 405.

"We got stuck in traffic going to Westchester," he said. "It's a tough deal. You're sitting there cramped in those little seats. It's hard to decide whether to leave early and miss traffic but sit around and wait for the game, or leave later and fight traffic."

Once the Highlanders arrive in Wilmington, their prospects will brighten. Banning (5-6) upset Kennedy last week but is not a powerhouse. With deep threat Joey Rodriguez healthy and Robert Ortega and Bryan Wilson running hard, Granada Hills is formidable.

"Our defense has played well toward the end of the season," Harp said. "Both teams will run the ball. Our passing attack will be very important."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

City Section

QUARTERFINALS

Today, 7 p.m.

City Championship

* Taft vs. Crenshaw at South Gate High

* Birmingham vs. Carson at Long Beach

Veterans Stadium

* Granada Hills at L.A. Banning

* San Pedro at Sylmar

City Invitational

* San Fernando at Gardena

* Narbonne at Chatsworth

* Canoga Park at Fremont

Southern Section

QUARTERFINALS

Friday, 7:30 p.m., unless noted

Division III

* Notre Dame vs. Peninsula at

North Torrance High

* Valencia vs. Mira Costa at Canyon High

* St. Francis at Antelope Valley

* Crescenta Valley vs. Hart at Glendale High

Division IV

* Lompoc at Westlake

* Ventura at Royal

* Agoura vs. Dos Pueblos at San Marcos High

* Buena at Arroyo Grande

Division X

* La Canada at Santa Maria St. Joseph

Division XI

* Santa Ana Calvary Chapel vs.

St. Bonaventure at Westminster High

* Nordhoff at Carpinteria

* Orange Lutheran vs. Santa Paula

at CS Fullerton

* Cathedral at Oak Park

Division XII

* Montclair Prep vs. Banning

at Nicolet Middle School

* Bosco Tech at Frazier Mountain

* Paraclete vs. Big Bear at Big Bear

Middle School, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Division XIII

* Flintridge Prep at Arrowhead Christian

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