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The High Schools : Cleveland, Taft Coaches Agree to Disagree

Their teams are set to go head to head Thursday afternoon for the West Valley League title, but earlier this week, Cleveland Coach Steve Landress and Taft Coach Tom Stevenson spent a good deal of time discussing the night 22 years ago they went head to head.

Literally.

In 1966, Stevenson was a senior defensive tackle at Birmingham. Landress, a year younger, was an offensive guard at Cleveland. Both spent an evening whacking each other in the head.

Both coaches concur that the game did occur and that both played, but this is where agreement ends. If Thursday’s 2:30 p.m. game at Taft is as close as the coaches’ game of one-upmanship, the winner won’t be decided until the final seconds.

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“I’m not going to tell you who won, but it wasn’t the guy from Cleveland,” Stevenson quipped.

Said Landress, 38: “He was a big, old, slow defensive lineman. He thought he was fast. He wasn’t.”

Countered Stevenson, 39: “How can he say that? I got a college scholarship off that game alone.”

Said Landress: “He’s always had great lungs. He should have been a band director. I mean the guy can bark. If he ever loses his job as a football coach, he can direct the girls in the crowd at Chippendale’s.”

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Rejoined Stevenson: “Landress was tough, but he was one of those guys who’d bite your leg in the pile.”

Stevenson claims Birmingham held off the Cavaliers, 18-15, despite surrendering a late safety.

“That was back when the Braves were baaaaaad, " Stevenson said.

Landress says he can’t remember who won. A convenient memory loss?

Maybe he took too many bangs in the head that night.

Add friendly rivals: They played in the same Little League and on the same Poly High football team in the 1960s.

They earned their undergraduate degrees from Cal State Northridge in 1975 and they coached the B team together at Manual Arts High in 1977 and ’78.

They even took part in each other’s weddings. But when coaches Jeff Engilman of Sylmar and Fred Grimes of North Hollywood take the field for Friday night’s East Valley League title game at Sylmar, their friendship will be put on hold until the final whistle blows.

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“I respect Jeff a great deal as a coach and a person,” Grimes said. “But I’m going to do my best to beat them on Friday night and I’m sure he’s going to try his best to beat us.”

Engilman agreed, then added that their friendship has made this game more intense than others.

“Anytime you’re playing for the league title, it’s a big game,” Engilman said. “But it’s a little bit bigger when the opposing coach is a close friend, too.”

Add North Hollywood: After opening the season with 4 consecutive losses, Grimes reasoned that the Huskies would be playing Sylmar for nothing more than pride. But then North Hollywood (4-4, 4-2 in league play) reeled off 4 wins in a row.

“It’s turned out just the way I hoped it would,” Grimes said. “I remember telling some friends at a birthday party for Jeff’s dad that nothing would be at stake in this game. That they would have the East Valley League title wrapped up and we would be playing strictly for pride. Luckily, I was wrong.”

Del Rey finale: Tickets for Saturday’s Loyola-Crespi game at Glendale High, which will decide the Del Rey League title, will not be available on a presale basis.

Last season’s game at Birmingham High--both teams were undefeated and nationally ranked--was a sellout, with 11,500 tickets sold.

This season, Loyola (9-0, 3-0 in league play) is ranked No. 1 by a national publication, but Crespi (5-4, 3-0) has struggled.

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Gates open at 6 p.m.

All in the family: Thursday night’s game between Granada Hills and San Fernando will decide the North Valley League champion, but it also will determine who gets bragging rights in one North Valley family.

Sebastian Glaze (6-2, 215) is a starting linebacker-tight end for Granada Hills. His cousin, George Glaze (6-5, 215), is a starting defensive end for San Fernando. San Fernando junior quarterback Michael Wynn (6-3, 210) is a cousin of both.

So, let’s see, we could have Sebastian sacking Michael. We could have George rolling over Sebastian on his way to the quarterback. Or we could have Michael burning Sebastian for a scoring pass.

“It’s kind of funny,” Wynn said. “I’ll have one cousin trying to protect me and another trying to kill me.”

Wynn said that he and George visited Sebastian over the weekend but didn’t discuss the game.

“We talked about college football, you know, USC and stuff like that,” he said. “We didn’t talk about the game at all. We tried not to think about our cousin being on the other team.”

Add big game: Kennedy Coach Bob Francola has spent the past 2 weekends watching San Fernando and Granada Hills push his team all over the field. He sees the game as a classic match-up of speed vs. strength, the big-play team vs. the grind-it-out offense.

Francola said that he thinks Granada Hills (8-1, 6-0 in league) has to contain San Fernando’s many offensive threats or the Highlanders could have an upset on their hands.

“They have to keep the explosive San Fernando offense off the field,” said Francola, whose team surrendered 30 first-half points to San Fernando (6-3, 5-1) in a 44-7 loss 2 weeks ago. “If Granada Hills can contain the San Fernando home run, then they have a great chance.”

Granada Hills defeated Kennedy, 21-0, last Friday, despite passing for only a yard.

“I look for Granada Hills to use the same game plan they did against us,” Francola said. “Just pound it out on the ground.

“I was standing there thinking about the (Granada Hills) game, thinking that we were getting beat but that I wasn’t having to run up and down the sidelines. They pound on you. They’re very methodical.”

Dunivant returns: To the excitement of Burroughs football fans, former Coach Bob Dunivant returned to the Burbank campus last week to serve as offensive coordinator in the Indians’ crucial Foothill League win over Burbank.

Actually, it was the third game this season in which Dunivant served as the eye-in-the-sky observer in the press box.

But Dunivant, who was the offensive coordinator for Coach Butch McElwee last year, downplays his contribution and the apparent commotion.

“I’m not back in coaching and I’m not planning on going back,” Dunivant said. “All I’m doing is helping Butch call a few plays. He’s been a little short on coaches and he needed someone to help out who is familiar with the offense.

“This whole thing has been blown clear out of proportion.”

Staff writers Steve Elling, John Ortega and Vince Kowalick contributed to this notebook.


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