The delayed football showdown between long-time rivals Palisades High and Venice High promised to be such a good match that L.A. Times sportswriter Eric Sondheimer was at the Stadium by the Sea on Monday afternoon.
He watched as the Dolphins (2-0) outplayed the Gondoliers, 38-14, to move into a tie for first place with Fairfax in the Western League.
The game was postponed last Friday night, thanks to smoke from the Saddle Ridge Fire. Last year, the Venice-Palisades game started on a Friday night and the Dolphins were behind 10-0, when lightning halted the game. Play resumed the next day and Pali rallied to win 24-17.
Given this history, Dolphins Head Coach Tim Hyde quipped after this week’s game, “Lightning, smoke–what’s next year, snow or an earthquake?”
After Tommy Meek’s opening kickoff sailed into the end zone, Venice started on its own 20 and proceeded to march downfield for a touchdown in 10 plays. The PAT was good.
The Dolphins were forced to punt and the Gondoliers took over on their own 42-yard line. But after moving to Pali’s 48, they suffered an interception by Immanuel Newell, a 6-2, 230-pound defensive end, who “sprinted” to the Venice 19, before being tackled.
Quarterback Forrest Brock handed the ball to Kenny Cline (who rushed for 131 yards in the game), and then to Max Palees, who scored the first of his three touchdowns. Meek’s PAT tied the score at 7-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Venice quarterback Lucas Diamont, who is headed to Duke, slipped several times on the field – a not uncommon occurrence for athletes who play at the stadium.
Early in the second quarter, Venice punted and Xavier Whitfield returned the ball about 25 yards to the Venice 22. Brock once again relied on running backs Kline, Brandon Forrest and finally Palees to take a 14-7 lead.
With five minutes left in the half, Meek kicked a 30-yard field goal, giving the Dolphins a 10-point lead. But Diamont responded with several good passes to lead Venice to a touchdown and PAT, making the score 17-14.
Just two minutes remained before halftime and Palisades took possession on its own 17. But runs by Kline and Palees, and then two passes to Palees moved the ball to the Venice 21. Brock then passed to Teddy Suisman, who managed to catch the ball while surrounded by Gondoliers, and turn it into a touchdown. The PAT was good.
At the end of a scoreless third quarter, the Dolphins got a break on a Venice punt when the ball hit the ground and went backwards about 10 yards, putting it on the 50. Led by Kline’s running, Pali moved downfield and Palees scored from the 3. The PAT made the score 31-14.
With about six minutes left in the game, Pali took over on downs on the Venice 35. Using Kline and Palees, Brock moved the ball to the one-yard line. Kline then followed guard Nick Calcaterra (6-5, 330 pounds) into the endzone. Another kick by Meek made the final score 38-14.
Pali’s defensive players Newell, Syaire Riley and Noah Ghodooshim were key in neutralizing Diamont.
Sondheimer praised Riley in his story: “Twice in the first quarter, he tackled ballcarriers for losses. Then there was the pass he tipped that led to an interception by Immanuel Newell. He was a true disruptor.”
After the game, Newell said he felt the team was a little sluggish at the beginning. About his interception he said, “I saw that he [Diamont] was going to throw it and then Sy tipped it and I caught it.”
“We’ve practiced for Venice,” Palees said. “We’ve been impatient to play them.” He added that the win was “a team effort.”
“This is our rival,” Hyde said. “There’s so much pride and honor in playing this game.”
With this win, the Dolphins are 6-1 overall and now must come back and play again this Friday night at University. Venice moves on to play a must-win game against Fairfax.