No mystery in the Valley Pac-8 Conference: Sylmar High is the football team to beat.
Call this conference Sylmar and the seven dwarfs. If you can find a Las Vegas casino that will take a wager on high school football, bet the farm on the Spartans.
Coach Jeff Engilman can’t even remember the last time the Spartans lost a conference game. “God, it was a long time ago,” he marveled.
In fact, Sylmar has not lost to a Valley Pac-8 team in more than three seasons. The Spartans have won 25 consecutive conference games dating to a 20-6 loss to Reseda in 1989. That loss also marked the last time Sylmar did not score in double figures. That streak is at 42 games.
Furthermore, Sylmar, ranked No. 9 in the state by Cal-Hi Sports, is coming off its finest season in school history. After blazing through conference play, outscoring opponents, 230-49, Sylmar kept the steamroller going in the postseason. The Spartans recorded lopsided victories over Venice, Crenshaw and Garfield before stunning Carson, 17-0, in the City Section 4-A Division championship game.
The last time Carson was shut out was 1980, a span of 157 games.
And 1993 promises more of the same. The team’s top returnee happens to be 1992 4-A player of the year Tyrone Crenshaw.
Crenshaw led area City running backs with 1,875 yards and 22 touchdowns. Incredibly, he gained more than 1,500 of those yards and scored 19 touchdowns on a broken ankle, an injury incurred in the second game of the year. One can only imagine what a healthy Crenshaw will accomplish in 1993.
A 5-foot-11, 180-pound tailback, Crenshaw is the third back in six years to excel for Engilman. Since Engilman, who coached Manual Arts to back-to-back 3-A titles in 1983-84, took over the program in 1987, Sylmar has produced a 1,000-yard rusher each season. Last season, Sylmar produced two 1,000-yard backs, Crenshaw and Ibn Bilal (1,214 yards), who transferred from Cleveland for his senior season.
Surprise, surprise: Engilman hints that he may have another dynamic duo--Crenshaw and Mark Reynosa, a 6-0, 190-pound senior transfer from Dana Hills High. Reynosa rushed for 503 yards in 120 carries last season.
“I know as long as I’m with Engilman, I’m guaranteed 1,000 yards,” Crenshaw said. “Engilman loves to run the ball.”
Reynosa is one of three talented transfers. Seniors Anthony Muse, a quarterback and free safety, and Robert Epperson, a 6-6, 280-pound lineman, came over from Poly during the off-season.
Sylmar, which has won four East Valley League titles in the past five years, has consistently beaten conference opponents with its running game and a punishing defense. Although only one lineman returns, very little should change in how the Spartans win games.
Still, the young line remains Engilman’s No. 1 concern.
“They are very talented, very big, very inexperienced,” he said.
Engilman says as many as seven players might start both ways. That’s why the coach is working his Spartans harder than ever. “Everybody’s out to get us,” he said.
Crenshaw, who wants to gain 2,000 yards this season--but will settle for being the City’s leading rusher--knows what the Spartans are up against as they try to repeat as City champions.
“Like Engilman says, ‘We used to hunt last year. Now we’re the prey,’ ” Crenshaw said.
Conference opponents, however, should provide little resistance. This looks like a down season in the Valley Pac-8. Crenshaw is the only returning running back in the conference to have gained more than 500 yards last season. The only one who comes close is North Hollywood’s Carl Evans, who rushed for 475 yards.
Skeptics say the Spartans benefit from being in a weak conference. They contend that if the Spartans were in the Northwest Valley Conference, their competition would be much more intense.
In the off-season, many coaches wanted to see the two conferences realigned. One proposal had Sylmar and Reseda trading conferences, which many believed would facilitate parity. But, much to the dismay of Reseda Coach Joel Schaeffer, the plan was rejected.
Engilman discounts the notion that the Valley Pac-8 is weaker than the Northwest Valley.
“All I can say is Van Nuys made it to the semifinals in the 4-A last year. So, where were (the Northwest Valley Conference teams)?” Engilman said.
Skeptics take note: Sylmar’s preseason opponents are Kennedy, Chatsworth and El Camino Real--all from the Northwest Valley Conference.
Valley Pac-8 Conference
East Valley League (4-A) at a Glance
1992 STANDINGS OVERALL LEAGUE PROJECTED FINISH Sylmar 13-1 7-0 Sylmar Van Nuys 8-5 4-3 Birmingham Birmingham 5-4 4-3 Van Nuys Poly 6-4 3-4 *Canoga Park
* First year in East Valley League
Mid-Valley League (3-A) at a Glance
1992 STANDINGS OVERALL LEAGUE PROJECTED FINISH Canoga Park 6-5 4-3 Grant Grant 4-6-1 3-4 North Hollywood North Hollywood 5-6 2-5 Monroe Monroe 2-8 1-6 *Poly
* First year in Mid-Valley League
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Player School Pos. Ht Wt Class Tyrone Crenshaw Sylmar RB/DB 5-11 180 Sr. Phil Duffield Canoga Park G/DE 6-1 200 Sr. Carl Evans North Hollywood RB/DB 5-9 160 Sr. Damien Foster North Hollywood RB/DB 5-11 180 Sr. Mike Johnson Monroe QB/DB 5-7 175 Sr. Rafat Kerkonian North Hollywood WR/DB 6-0 170 Sr. Don McCrary Poly LB 6-1 255 Sr. Anthony Muse Sylmar QB/DB 6-2 190 Sr. Dwight Patton Sylmar WR/DB 6-0 180 Sr. Marvin Powell Birmingham QB/LB 6-3 220 Jr. Mark Reynosa Sylmar RB/DB 6-0 190 Sr. Miguel Romo Van Nuys G/LB 6-1 230 Sr. David San Vicente Birmingham T/DT 6-4 280 Jr. Ray Singleton Grant QB 5-11 170 Jr. Rod Singleton Grant RB/DB 5-9 180 Jr.