Palisades High, 4-0 in Western League play, needed to defeat Fairfax (3-1) on the road last Friday to win the league title outright. The Dolphins prevailed, 21-7, despite having their preparations disrupted by the Getty Fire.
PaliHi was closed Monday through Thursday, because of the threatening fire and mandatory evacuations, which meant the football team couldn’t practice. Regardless, the game was going to be played, so the players and coaches got together at a Westside park on Thursday.
“We did a 45-minute walk through,” Head Coach Tim Hyde told Circling the News. “We went over game plans and kept it basic.” He told his players that without the usual practices, it would take a quarter to get back into a rhythm–and he was right.
Fairfax received the opening kickoff and steadily advanced downfield, only to lose the ball on a fumble at the Palisades 26.
The Dolphin offense reached the Fairfax 46, but on fourth and three, an incomplete pass gave the Lions possession.
Hyde had told his team, “The key is to keep everything close and we’ll go from there.” The first quarter was scoreless, leaving the Dolphins in good position to gain momentum.
When Fairfax was unable to move the ball, Palisades took over on the Lions’ 40. Quarterback Forrest Brock proceeded to hand the ball off six straight times to leading rusher Kenny Cline, who eventually scored the game’s first touchdown. (He ended the night with 130 yards on 24 carries.) Tommy Meek’s PAT was good.
Hyde said on Monday, “That was key, not to let Fairfax score first.”
Trailing 7-0 at halftime, Fairfax came out and scored its only touchdown. But the Dolphins fought back, starting with a 40-yard kickoff return by Brandon Forrest to the Fairfax 45.
Brock once again went to Cline for six straight plays, and over the next six plays used him to move it down to the Fairfax 6. Max Palees took it four yards and then Cline hunkered down behind 6-5, 330-pound guard Nick Calcaterra and scored the TD. Meek’s kick made the score 14-7.
Pali’s final touchdown came in the fourth quarter after Fairfax had to punt. Starting on his own 44, Brock handed the ball to Palees, who ran for 11 yards. Cline and Palees continued to chew up the yardage, with Palees finally scoring from the six.
Maxpreps chose Pali linebacker Immanuel Newell as the overall Player of the Game. He had five solo tackles, three assists and a sack. Tight end Syaire Riley was selected Offensive Player of the Game with seven pancake blocks. Gage McCloskey was Defensive Player of the Game with two solo and seven assisted tackles. Kicker Meek was selected for special teams.
This was Pali’s first solo Western League title since 1987, but the record failed to give Palisades a home game.
On November 2, despite its 9-1 season record, Palisades was seeded sixth and must travel to Wilmington to play third-seeded Banning (5-4) on November 15.
Hyde had initially hoped for a home game for his players, but that’s not the way the rankings came out. Still, he said he looks forward to playing Banning. “Their quarterback is outstanding. They’re good. I’m excited about going there. I grew up in the Long Beach area.”
Hyde said that the Marine League is considered the toughest in the City section, which includes top-seeded San Pedro, Carson, Gardena–and Narbonne.
Narbonne, which had won the City Section championship five straight years, had its 2018 title taken away last Friday because of having played ineligible players. They are also banned from competing in the playoffs this year and 2020.
“This shakes things up; it opens everything up,” Hyde said. “Everyone has a shot.” Including Palisades High, which has never won a City football championship since the school opened in 1961.
Other teams in the open division are Carson (8), Garfield (5), Birmingham (4), Crenshaw (7) and San Fernando (2).