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No home field, no problem for El Camino Real football team

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RESEDA — El Camino Real football coach Jason Sabolic squatted to scoop up a handful of mud from Cleveland Charter High School’s dirt track. He saw a hole on the field and was determined to get it filled in. He did it with a smile on his face. He and the team were grateful for a place to play crosstown rival Taft on Friday night, since their current home field’s turf surface was deemed unplayable in late August.

“Does anyone have a shovel?” Sabolic asked, with a smile on his face. He doesn’t mind the dirt surface, especially since it’s one that’s consistent with where the team is currently practicing, the ECR baseball field.

“We’re going to show up anywhere and we’re going to try our butts off to get that W,” Sabolic said after a 28-14 win over the Toreadors that extends the Royals’ win streak to five games.

The football field’s synthetic turf surface failed the impact test, ECR athletic director Richard Russell said. Meaning, in rudimentary terms, that if a player falls on the surface, he won’t bounce.

Los Angeles Unified School District is responsible for athletic facility maintenance at El Camino Real, whose turf field is still under warranty.

The LAUSD Board of Education approved a synthetic turf field project at ECR on Aug. 30, according to a Los Angeles Unified spokesperson. The project is expected to begin in early 2023. The district will take care of any costs not covered under the warranty.

If Friday night’s setting hindered the Royals’ abilities, it didn’t show. The sense of rivalry between the two schools wasn’t dampened either.

“I feel like it was perfect coming here,” said Devin Howard, who scored two touchdowns. “I feel like this field was already ours. We already came here and beat Cleveland, anyway.”

Taft, which is currently undergoing a stadium renovation of its own, saw production from Devon Conroy and Daniel Ramirez. Conroy is in just his second year of playing football and first year at the quarterback position.

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Even though the Woodland Hills rivalry wasn’t geographically in Woodland Hills, the Toreadors had a crowd on Friday night that helped fan the flames of that rivalry.

“This is only my second year, but the crowds for Taft games are really, really impressive,” coach Jeff Kearin said. “They’re into the game and they’re engaged. I was really energized by the crowd.

Next week, El Camino Real heads to Oak Park to host Birmingham, another unbeaten West Valley League team. After that, they’ll have senior night on a Thursday at Granada Hills Charter.

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