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San Pedro Inches by Spartans

City Championship: Pirates defeat Sylmar, 24-17, in quarterfinal game by stopping running back just short of end zone on fourth-and-goal in second overtime.


SYLMAR — The chalkboard Jeff Engilman used during timeouts to align his defensive players was of no use in double overtime.

What he needed was a ruler, something to emphasize an inch or two. That's how far his Sylmar High offense was from the goal line on second down. On third down. And on fourth.

And that's how far they remained after Isidro Medina was stopped by a swarm of San Pedro tacklers. While the Pirates rejoiced in their 24-17 second-round City Championship victory, Medina lay frozen face first on the field, still that inch or two from the end zone.

Gone was Sylmar's unbeaten season and dream of its first City title since 1994.

"It is a bitter pill," Engilman said. "San Pedro played very well, we made too many mistakes and we did not capitalize on our opportunities."

After scoring first on a 27-yard first-quarter field goal by Eric Johnson, Sylmar (11-1) sputtered on offense until driving 82 yards for a touchdown that tied the score, 10-10, with four minutes to play in regulation.

An onside kick was recovered by San Pedro, but Sylmar held the Pirates on fourth down from the Spartans' 19 with under a minute left and forced overtime.

Beginning at the 10-yard line, Sylmar scored on third down on a one-yard run by Medina. San Pedro countered by scoring on fourth down on a one-yard run by quarterback Robbie Reedy. Both teams kicked the extra points.

In the second overtime, San Pedro was on offense first and scored on third down, again on a one-yard run by Reedy.

Sylmar faced fourth down from the eight, but a pass interference call in the end zone gave the Spartans a first down at the four. Medina rambled three yards on first down, but James Pringle was stopped inches from the goal line on second down.

A penalty brought the ball back to the five, and on third down Medina dashed to within inches of the goal line. Medina, a 235-pound senior fullback-linebacker, had 77 yards to give him 916 this season, but he came up short on fourth down.

Engilman is a proven winner. His record since 1990 is 113-20. Yet he told a teary group of Spartans to handle the loss with dignity.

"It will always hurt, but when you walk past those stands hold your heads up," he told the team. "Every one of you left your hearts on the field. You are all champions."

Sylmar's rugged style resembles that of teams from the vaunted Marine League. But San Pedro (9-3) is the genuine article, rushing for 269 yards and controlling the clock.

The Pirates tied the score, 3-3, on the last play of the first half on a 46-yard field goal by Mario Danelo, then dominated most of the second half behind the running of Alex Teems, James Gatlin and James Harper.

Gatlin scored on an eight-yard run midway through the third quarter for a 10-3 lead and Teems had 139 yards in 23 carries.

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