Jumping into the Fire: PaliHi Football Coach Scrimmages Birmingham

Dylen Smith starts his first year as varsity football coach at Palisades High School.

Palisades High School new Head Coach Dylen Smith is challenging his players from the get-go with a scrimmage against Birmingham on Thursday night, August 10. The J.V. team will play at 3 and the varsity will play at 5 p.m.

L.A. Times Sports Writer Eric Sondheimer has ranked the Birmingham Patriots as the City Section football program with a chance to wind a fourth consecutive Open Division title.

“The team was young and inexperienced, particularly at quarterback, and its City Section rivals should have been able to take advantage. But the Patriots won their playoff opener in overtime against Venice and never looked back in winning a third consecutive City Open Division title,” Sondheimer wrote.

Even though PaliHi made it into the Division I Championship last year losing to Granada Hills in the final, this wasn’t among schools in Sondheimer’s story “Teams to Watch in the City Section Football for the 2023 Season.”

Smith, who has 130 kids out for the football program, wasn’t worried about facing Birmingham.

“Luckily, it’s a scrimmage,” he told CTN on Wednesday, and said he was looking forward to the challenge. “We’ll see what our team is made of.”

It is his first year at PaliHi, and the coach said that player development will come. “We have a new system and I’m teaching them a new way of playing,” said Smith, who was Santa Monica’s starting quarterback in 1996 when the Vikings beat PaliHi.

Smith then played at Santa Monica College for two years before transferring to the University of Kansas, where he was that college’s quarterback in 1999 and 2000. For the past nine years he was the assistant coach at Brentwood and before that served as the quarterback coach at Malibu High.

“I’ve always wanted to be the head coach and run my own program,” Smith said. With his experience he could have gone anywhere but he was excited about Pali because, “I’ve seen the tradition. I see what its like on game day.” And that influenced him to apply here.

On Wednesday, he had just cut the varsity roster to 57 players and JV to 56. He planned to talk to the kids who had not made the roster to encourage them to keep practicing and getting better, so they “Can work their way up.”

Varsity captains this year are seniors and include quarterback Roman La Scala, Braydon Sanford, Matthew Spoonamore and Evan Nehrenberg. The JV captains selected were Mattias Hernandez, Niccoli Townsley and Enzo Allen.

“In the beginning we’re going to have some struggles,” Smith said and added, “It will be a fun season.” He praised his players and said, “they’ve been working hard.

“The goal is for the kids to get better every week,” he said, and thought by about week three everyone would start to settle in. “I’m hoping for a little patience.”

He also praised the PaliHi Quarterback Club for their efforts to raise money for the program. It costs about $800 per player for the season to pay for equipment, transportation, meals and the coaches. Parents are asked to pay what they can, $300 is suggested and then the rest must be raised.

The school pays for the coaches, but parents pay a summer stipend for the coaches and one parent told CTN “We have to supplement everything.”

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