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Taft Leaves Sylmar in a Daze

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Several questions face Sylmar High after its stunning 30-6 loss to Taft in a nonconference opener Thursday night.

The first, however, might have been the toughest:

Who tells Engilman?

Sylmar, City Section 4-A champion as recently as 1994 and winner of 25 of its past 26 games, was thoroughly whipped. The Spartans fell behind in the first quarter, 20-0, and mustered only 77 yards in offense.

Unable to witness the debacle was Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman, who is serving a two-game suspension for making illegal contact with an athlete not enrolled at Sylmar.

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Assistants Darrel McIntyre and Obbie Brown ran the show, and the curtain came down during the first act.

“I feel I let Jeff down as a coach and as a friend,” said McIntyre, shaking his head. “I’m sure he’s waiting for us at the school.”

McIntyre could tell Engilman that punter Shawn Avalos averaged 41 yards on six boots. He then could mention the wholly meaningless Spartan touchdown, scored with 28 seconds to play on a 13-yard reception by Jose Ochoa.

Otherwise . . .

“We made so many mistakes, we need to go right back to basics,” McIntyre said. “We need a serious gut check.”

At times, Sylmar’s grasp of its game plan seemed as dim as the obsolete lights at Taft. Meanwhile, the Toreadors came out blazing, scoring in three plays on their first possession.

After two short complete passes, Sedric Hurns, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound junior tailback, burst for 59 yards to give Taft a 7-0 lead. Hurns, a slashing runner with good acceleration, had 109 yards in his first three carries and finished with 158 and two touchdowns in 13 carries.

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Hurns is filling the tailback position left vacant by Donald Carpenter, who transferred to Sylmar from Taft after rushing for more than 1,200 yards last year.

Any worries at Taft about replacing Carpenter, who rushed for 25 yards in nine carries, are over. Sometimes what seems like a loss turns into a gain.

“We were whupped,” said Carpenter, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Taft players cried, too. With joy. The Toreadors lost to Sylmar, 27-7, in last season’s opener and the meaning of a victory over the Valley’s perennial City power was not lost on them.

“I carried my linemen and my whole team in my heart while I ran,” Hurns said. “This was huge for us, and we want to carry it all the way to December.”

Based on first impressions, Hurns can do quite a bit of the carrying. And his runs were complemented by the passing of Nick DiPadova, who completed 13 of 25 for 123 yards and one touchdown.

DiPadova ran for a four-yard score to give Taft a 13-0 lead, then hit Damon Coleman with a two-yard pass and a 20-0 lead in the first quarter’s final seconds.

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Sylmar was held to a net loss of four yards in the second quarter, and Taft added a 22-yard field goal by Jamie Mena for a 23-0 halftime bulge.

Sylmar administrators scoured the stands looking for Durell Price, the team’s star running back last year now playing at UCLA, to give the team a pep talk. Price wasn’t around, but it would not have made a difference.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Sylmar,” Taft Coach Troy Starr said. “That makes the victory special.”

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