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Sylmar Staff Gets Tuneup

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The 1997 high school football season is more than three months from kickoff and already the Sylmar High coaching staff is getting a jump on the competition.

Sylmar Coach Jeff Engilman and his staff of six are combining efforts with Verdugo Hills Coach Don Scott to lead City Section players against their counterparts from the Southern Section in the Valley Classic All-Star Football game at Pierce College tonight at 6.

The all-star game will provide a training ground for the Sylmar staff, which has been reshuffled since the end of last season.

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Engilman, the region’s winningest coach of the 1990s and easily the most animated on the sideline, is forcing more responsibility on his staff while he will assume the role of a specialist--and no doubt, head taskmaster.

Darrel McIntyre, a longtime assistant, is moving from defensive to offensive coordinator. London Woodfin, a former player at Sylmar who went on to play at UCLA, will call the defense.

And Engilman, what will he do?

“I’m going to walk both sides of the fence,” said Engilman, who uses medication to regulate his high-blood pressure. “I’ve told the guys I’m slowing down.”

Perhaps the new assignments are the end result of Sylmar’s poor showing against Taft in last year’s opener. With Engilman serving a two-game suspension for improper contact with a player from another school in the spring of 1996, his staff was forced to run the show. But the staff bombed--big time.

Chaos prevailed on the sideline and between hash marks. Engilman was not happy about it or the 30-6 drubbing.

Tonight will provide his staff with another opportunity--or at least a dry run to work out the kinks before the Spartans’ opener against Washington.

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Only this time, Engilman will be there to look over their shoulders.

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The game provides a testing ground of sorts for the Southern Section team as well.

USC’s defensive end recruits Ryan Nielsen of Royal and Bobby DeMars of Westlake will line up tonight in their first of what should be dozens of games together.

Nielsen, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound specimen, was a one-man show at Royal, where he had 19 sacks, caused seven fumbles and had two interceptions for a team that finished 2-8.

Nielsen and DeMars, a 6-4, 245 pounder, who would make nice bookends on any defensive line, have already struck fear in Engilman, who said the City’s offensive line is very weak.

“I understand the two kids are houses,” Engilman said.

More like condos, but you get the picture.

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Engilman and Co. have their work cut out against St. Francis Coach Bill Redell and Westlake’s Jim Benkert, who will guide the Southern Section.

Redell, 56, who has two Shrine All-Star victories to his credit, is 5-1 on the all-star circuit. And he and Benkert share much of the same brain.

Benkert was Redell’s offensive coordinator at Crespi from 1985-88.

Engilman went against Redell in a 1989 all-star game. Redell had phenom Russell White. Engilman had a headache.

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Redell’s team defeated Engilman’s by a single point in the only all-star game Engilman has coached in.

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While some of the region’s finest senior football players (like Camarillo’s Joe Borchard, Mike Anger and Eugene Jackson and Hart’s Mike Wambolt and Cody Joyce) opted not to play in this all-star game, many Division I recruits will participate.

City players in tonight’s game who have signed to play at Division I schools include Sylmar’s Derrell Daniels (Washington) and Jose Ochoa (Colorado State), San Pedro’s Jomar Butler (San Diego St.), Taft’s Keith Johnson (Oregon State), Westchester’s Larry Triplett (Washington) and Wesley Ace (San Diego St.).

Southern Section players in addition to Nielsen and DeMars include Burroughs’ J.K. Scott (Washington) and St. Francis’ Chris Palic (Arizona).

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The official slogan of tonight’s City vs. Southern Section game is “Who plays better ball?”

But how much does this game prove?

Engilman and Redell had the same answer, “Nothing.”

Well, the publicity people had to come up with some kind of hype to get people interested.

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Quarterbacks are sure to get an earful from their coaches in this game.

The field generals will be wearing in-ear wireless receivers, which will enable them to hear their coach, who will communicate via a hand-held walkie-talkie.

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The devices were donated by Whisper Communications Systems of Canoga Park and are part of an experimental project.

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Football fans who don’t want to leave their homes can sit back and watch the game live on television.

Time Warner Communications will broadcast the game live on Channel 6 in the West Valley. Other cable companies may broadcast the game at a later date.

Six cameras will be used for the broadcast, which will include a pregame show, a halftime analysis and a postgame wrap-up.

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