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Relaxed Casey Leads Sylmar Charge Against Birmingham

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

After fumbling twice in the first half of Friday’s Valley Pac-8 Conference game at Birmingham High, Sylmar tailback Jerome Casey told himself one thing at halftime--relax.

“I was pushing myself too hard in the first half,” Casey said after Sylmar’s 16-6 victory over the Braves (1-3, 1-1 in conference). “I just decided to settle down in the second half. I just decided to do my stuff.”

Casey’s stuff included 70 second-half yards in 10 carries, 129 yards in 25 carries for the game and a 9-yard touchdown run with 2:39 left in the third quarter that gave the Spartans a 16-0 lead.

“Jerome really took charge in the second half,” Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman said. “He was just trying too hard in the first half.”

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The Sylmar offense might have sputtered at times, but the defense played consistently and narrowly missed a shutout. Birmingham’s only touchdown came with 1:18 left on a 1-yard run by Myron Settle.

The Spartans (3-1, 2-0 in conference) held Birmingham to minus-23 yards rushing and 102 yards in total offense. Keying the defense were linemen Hector Contreras and Martin Llerenas, linebacker London Woodfin and safety Neil Trusso. The Spartans sacked Birmingham quarterback Danny Larson 7 times for minus-45 yards.

Larson completed 13 of 30 passes for 125 yards, but he had 1 interception and did not throw a touchdown pass.

“Our defense really did the job tonight,” Engilman said. “We were a little out of control at times but we were sticking.”

Sylmar took a 7-0 lead with 7:01 left in the second quarter on Chris Pikes’ 9-yard bootleg around the right end. Oscar Romo’s point-after gave the Spartans a 7-0 halftime lead.

An errant Birmingham snap on a punt set up the Spartan score.

In a preview of the second half, the Sylmar defense dominated play, holding Birmingham to 4 yards rushing and sacking Larson 3 times for minus-19 yards.

Though the junior left-hander managed to complete 5 of 15 for 67 yards in the half, he was 0 for 5 in the first quarter and was constantly chased out of the pocket by the Spartans’ relentless pass rush.

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