Three interceptions and two fumbles undermined the undefeated Palisades High football team last Friday night as it lost to host San Pedro 33-17 in the City Section Open Division semifinals.
The third-seeded Dolphins were 11-0 going into the game against second-seeded San Pedro (10-1) and were hoping to win the first City championship in school history.
After the game, despite the loss, good sportsmanship was reflected by the Pali players and senior Ricardo Abrego told his teammates, “I’m proud to be one of your captains.”
One of the coaches reminded the team, “I know this hurts, but I’m proud of you guys.”
First-year Head Coach Chris Lyduke told his players, “We only lost one game this season. We had a hell of a year.
“This is a lesson in life, and from this we’ll rise again,” Hyduke continued. “We knew we had to play without mistakes, but we made too many tonight. We had a chance, but we just didn’t get it done.”
Later, Hyduke told CTN that “they [San Pedro] were the better team tonight. It was a tough loss because we didn’t play our best game.”
The Dolphins had a high-powered offense all year, averaging 47 points a game, but they knew they would have a tough time against the San Pedro defense, which had given up zero points in four straight victories: 42-0, 49-0, 50-0 and 60-0.
In addition to the costly turnovers, Pali sorely missed one of its key offensive threats, receiver Moses Ross, who was sidelined by Covid restrictions.
After the Dolphins received the opening kickoff, junior Marcus Brown ran for eight yards and sophomore quarterback Sammy Silvia completed a pass out to the Pali 48, but then an interception halted the promising drive.
Despite key tackles by Savyour Riley, Johnny Babala, Matt Fahn, Josiah Christopher and Trinity Camden, San Pedro marched 49 yards to score on a nine-yard run.
The San Pedro quarterback, Aidan Jackson, is a 6-2, 250 pound senior who could easily see over the defenders when he passed, and he was hard to tackle.
On its next possession, Pali advanced to the Pirates’ 35 before turning the ball over on downs. San Pedro then drove all the way to Pali’s 25 but was also stopped on downs.
Once again, a San Pedro defender intercepted Silvia’s pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was blocked and the Pirates led 13-0.
Starting on its own 28, the Palisades offense marched 72 yards for a touchdown in just five plays (aided by one penalty). First, a 15-yard pass to Kwazi Estes, then a 9-yard pass to Xavier Smith, a 23-yard run by leading rusher Daniel Anoh, another short pass to Estes and finally a 3-yard run by Josh Russell produced six points, followed by Giovanni Ferrero’s PAT kick.
The next time it had possession, Palisades took advantage of several penalties against San Pedro to advance to the Pirates’ 5-yard line, only to be stopped cold. Ferrero kicked a field goal and Pali trailed only 13-10.
San Pedro punted, but the ball went off a Dolphin player and the Pirates recovered on the Pali 46. They scored with just a minute left in the half to take a 20-10 lead.
Late in the third quarter, San Pedro punted and the Dolphins had to start from their own 6-yard line. They advanced out to the 49, but were stopped on a crucial fourth-and-two run, and San Pedro took over.
The Pirates and Dolphins then exchanged punts before San Pedro iced the game with a 22-yard scoring pass and a 27-10 lead.
Palisades drove downfield, with Silvia completing a key 10-yard pass to Smith on fourth-and-four, and Anoh scored on a 3-yard run.
Trailing 27-17, the Dolphins’ defense forced another punt and Pali was on the move until San Pedro intercepted a Silvia pass and returned it 40 yards to the Pali 23-yard line. The Pirates scored on the next play.
With about six minutes left to play, Palisades had another good drive (aided by a pass interference call) and reached San Pedro’s 2-yard line, only to fumble away the ball.
“Five turnovers in a game like this is too much to recover from,” coach Hyduke told the L.A. Times. “We had opportunities. It just wasn’t our night.”
This Saturday, San Pedro will play fifth-seeded Birmingham for the City championship, after Birmingham upset top-seeded Banning last week, 37-0.