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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS | HIGH SCHOOL REWIND

There Is Something in the Air at Sylmar

October 01, 2000|MIKE BRESNAHAN

Whenever's he's at a coaching clinic, Jeff Engilman utters the same mantra.

Before he draws his first X and O on the overhead projector, long before he dissects a game film or two, Engilman offers the simplest of advice: Use what you've got.

In the past, the Sylmar High football coach has parlayed the swift and strong legs of running backs Durell Price and Tyrone Crenshaw into two City Section championships.

Now, he's going after a title by using the arm of quarterback John Valdez.

That's right--Air Sylmar.

Engilman's teams used to throw a forward pass by mistake. Now they exploit mistakes in an opposing secondary.

After four games, Valdez has thrown as many touchdown passes (eight) as he did last year and has completed 51 of 82 passes (62.2%) for 634 yards.

Not quite the stuff of a typical Hart offense, but Sylmar has outscore opponents, 159-41.

"We're trying to work with what we've got," Engilman said. "We've got a great quarterback, we might as well use him."

Coming into the season, Engilman knew the running backs were untested and the smallish offensive line was more suited for pass blocking.

So the game plans this year have called for more down-and-outs than strong-side sweeps.

Take Friday's game against Washington.

Valdez completed 14 of 22 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns with one interception, his first of the season.

"In the past our quarterback was not asked to win football games . . . just not to lose them," Engilman said. "John's going to be asked to throw the ball."

After all, Engilman is simply using what he's got.

*

Forget the masseuse. And drain the whirlpool.

Kyle Matter of Hart was feeling just fine, thank you, the result of a reshuffled line that allowed only three sacks against Palmdale.

While zero sacks is obviously optimal, the amount allowed Thursday night is better than the 11 surrendered last week against Westlake. Or the nine given up against Thousand Oaks two weeks ago.

The slip in sacks can be credited to the new faces up front.

Chris Piligian, a 6-foot-5, 220-pound sophomore, was promoted from the junior varsity and inserted at left tackle, while Jose Flores moved from defensive line to right tackle.

"They didn't dominate or anything, but they played solid for us," Coach Mike Herrington said. "We had only a few days to prepare them in a short week. They're going to get better and better every week."

Their learning curve needs to be especially strong over the next few days because Hart plays Loyola, ranked No. 3 in Southern Section Division I, on Saturday night at Glendale High.

*

With Taft making absent-minded blunders on the field and San Fernando dissipating amid a maze of Birmingham blue, Granada Hills has silently sneaked up on the rest of the area City Section teams.

The Highlanders (4-0) were supposed to struggle without slinger Jason Winn, now at Texas Tech, but they have ridden the wave of a two-headed ground game.

Robert Ortega and Bryan Wilson have helped control the clock while Bobby Baca has picked apart defenses, including a 304-yard, four-touchdown performance Thursday against Jefferson.

The Highlanders are starting to compile a ledger comparable to the team that went 10-0 during the 1998 regular season.

This team, however, is far less experienced. The offensive line is new, as is all but one defensive lineman.

"That [1998] team had a little more experience going for it," Co-Coach Tom Harp said. "We'll have to wait until this week. It'll be a good indication of where we are."

The Highlanders play at Kennedy in a nonleague game Friday night and at Taft in a West Valley League opener Oct. 13.

*

Quarterback Todd Feiereisen of Westlake wasn't the only transfer from Thousand Oaks to strike it big against his old team in a 49-0 victory Thursday.

Chris Cannon broke up three passes and Kasey O'Brien rushed for 82 yards in 10 carries, including touchdowns of three and 44 yards.

Feiereisen completed seven of 18 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Coach Jim Benkert of Westlake downplayed the significance of the transfers, who arrived in January.

"You picked out three kids, but three kids don't win a football game," he said. "Every one of the guys was making plays. It was a total team effort."

*

The winningest boys' basketball coach in state history strode up and down the sidelines, flapping his arms and yelling like he hadn't coached in 25 years.

Come to think of it, he really hadn't.

Lou Cvijanovich coached a football game for the first time since 1975, the result of unexpectedly replacing Dave Gutierrez as coach of the Santa Clara High football team late last week.

Santa Clara lost to Kilpatrick, 56-12, but Cvijanovich was pleased with the Saints' spirited second half.

"We missed so many tackles in the first half it was nauseating," he said. "But at halftime, we gathered them in and said, 'Let's see if we can play a better second half.'

"After that, we were outscored, 20-12. I told them we won the second half."

Cvijanovich, 74, won 829 games and 15 Southern Section titles in 41 years as Santa Clara basketball coach. He left for a year after winning the state Division V championship in 1999, but was brought back as athletic director this season.

Cvijanovich, who led the football team to section titles in 1963 and 1965, won't completely rearrange the playbook.

He is more concerned with depth. Only 15 players were available at the end of Friday's game, the result of injuries and two ejections. "It's going to take a while to get that across to them, that they can't do that," he said.

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