#12 Crespi Carmelite was able to power through a slow start to hold-off upstart Sylmar 43-20 Friday night.
In a first half highlighted by Crespi’s classic veer offense, uncharacteristic penalties, and turnovers, it was a moderate surprise to see Crespi clinging to an 8-7 lead going into the second half.
“We made a few adjustments to what they were doing,” said head coach Troy Thomas. “We have a young line and I think they can be good, but they weren’t really seeing the whole picture and making the adjustments on the field. They all play defense, so it was hard to talk to them during the game.”
The ever-enigmatic Spartans started slow, allowing Crespi’s march down the field, relying on UCLA-commit Jalen Starks, who finished off the drive with a 49-yard-run for the score.
The backfield of Starks, who checks in at 6’1 240lbs., and junior Dylan Schlopy, who plays at a robust 5’5 132lbs., powered the Celts for most of the night, combining for 350 yards on the ground.
To say that Starks, who finished with 192 yards on 24 carries and four touchdowns, was a physical presence on the field would be an understatement. The senior never shies from contact, and consistently used his speed to power through the Sylmar front seven.
“He had a couple of runs where if he lifts his knees a little bit more, he gets through there, said Thomas. “He got tackled by the shoestrings a few times.”
Sylmar focused their offense on senior all-purpose back Marcus Gandy, whose two touchdowns kept the Spartans close for much of the night.
On a particularly confusing play, officials ruled that Gandy had fumbled a screen pass, though it looked like he never had possession. Nonetheless, he picked up the ball and darted 55 yards for the touchdown.
The play proved to be a catalyst for the young Crespi team, who never looked back.
Despite another connection between senior quarterback Clarence Williams and the speedy Gandy, Crespi’s offense could not be stopped. Subsequent frustration on the part of the perpetually undisciplined Sylmar team sealed the game, and the starters for both sides were pulled with a few minutes left.
Despite having relied upon Williams heavily since his freshman year, Sylmar—who lost top receiver Anthony Muse to graduation—featured a balanced attack that focused on the speed of Marcus Gandy.
“All credit to Marcus Gandy,” said Williams, who has played football with Gandy since the age of six. “He had a great game, and that’s what our team is built-upon this year. Our passing strength isn’t as deep as last season, and he knows he has some big shoes to fill. I’m looking forward to a great season from Marcus.”
Line play continues to bother the Spartans, who were unable to consistently protect Williams as he dropped back for much of the game. This, combined with an offense that works out of the I-formation means that Williams has players in the backfield by the time he drops back.
Despite this, the senior connected on 7-of-12 passes for 138 yards.
In spite of the non-league loss, Sylmar remained upbeat after the game. With a core built around Gandy and Williams, who have started since their freshman year, the chemistry on the squad is undeniable.
“I feel like we did a lot of growing up today,” said Gandy. “We still have a lot of work ahead of us, but we’re confident.”
Coming up — Crespi plays host to Orange Lutheran, while Sylmar travels to Pacific Palisades.
by John Siegel
High School Football America Contributor