After their non-league defeat of Brentwood on September 20, Palisades High Head Coach Tim Hyde told his players it was time to focus on their Western League rivals and take it one game at a time, just grinding it out.
The Dolphins took his words to heart and beat visiting Westchester 28-21 on Friday night, setting up another three-team battle for the league title as Venice crushed University 55-6 and Fairfax blasted Hamilton 43-0.
After Palisades Tommy Meek kicked off to the Westchester five-yard line, the Comets ran it back to the 35, but unable to move the ball, they were forced to punt. A bad snap ensued, the punter scrambled and Syaire Riley tackled him for a loss at the 24.
Quarterback Forrest Brock handed the ball to Palisades’ leading rusher, Max Palees, ran to the 11, and three plays later, senior Kenny Cline scored. Meek’s PAT was good.
Both teams had trouble moving the ball until near the end of the first quarter when Westchester advanced to the Dolphins’ 24. But Waka White intercepted a pass and Pali took over on its 19.
Behind the running of Cline and Palees, and passes from Brock to Eli Manheim, Teddy Suisman and Noah Ghodooshim, Palisades drove to Westchester’s 12, and then Suisman caught a pass for the touchdown. Meek’s PAT gave the Dolphins a 14-0 lead.
With less than two minutes left in the half, Westchester intercepted a pass on the Palisades 32-yard line, and then scored on a long pass. The PAT failed.
Palisades took the second half kickoff and once again moved down the field with runs by Palees and Cline and passes to Suisman and Manheim. The Dolphins reached Westchester’s 7, and then Brock connected with Suisman for the touchdown, followed by another Meek PAT, making the score 21-6.
After the kickoff, Immanuel Newell sacked the Comet quarterback on the 12-yard-line and Westchester was forced to punt.
But Brock threw an interception and the Comets had possession on their own 33. They marched down the field, aided by Dolphin penalties, and early in the fourth quarter scored their second TD, with a successful PAT. The score was 21-13.
Starting on Pali’s 22, Brock relied on Cline’s strong running, along with passes to Manheim and Palees, to reach Westchester’s 10. Brock gave Palees the ball and a wave of players pushed him over the goal line. Meek’s PAT made the score 28-13 with just over three minutes to play.
It seemed like the win was a done deal, but an offside kick by the Dolphins enabled the Comets to start at their own 45, and two long passes produced a touchdown. The PAT was good.
The Comets also tried an off-side kick, and when it slipped out of the Dolphins’ hands, they took possession on the Palisades 40 with 1:40 left. But the Pali defense held, with a key tackle by Newell on fourth down ending Westchester’s hopes.
“This was the sloppiest game we’ve played so far,” said co-captain Palees. “We have to make a statement against Venice next week.”
After the game, Hyde told his players that their mistakes had let Westchester stay close, “but you guys still won. You have to play smart football each and every snap. You can never rest.”
The Dolphins (5-1 for the season) will host arch-rival Venice (3-3) at 7 p.m. this Friday night at the Stadium by the Sea.
Venice’s heralded senior quarterback Luca Diamont has 161 yards passing per game and 94 rushing yards. Pali’s Brock has 178 passing yards per game and 20 rushing yards.
Newell said, “We have a lot of stuff to work on this week, but I believe in my team. We want to get the league title this year, we don’t want to share it.”
(Last year the Dolphins tied for first with Fairfax with identical 4-1 records.)
Said Cline, who was named Max Preps Player of the Game, “We’re looking forward to next week [against Venice].”
“Our last game [against Brentwood] was an awakening for me,” he said. “I played more that game than any this season.” He has gained 287 yards over four games, for a 72 yards-per-game average.
“I have to stay hungry,” he said. “We have to beat them [Venice]!”