It looked like a different football team when the Palisades High Dolphins took the field on Friday night, before trouncing Fairfax 35-6.
A week earlier, the Dolphins were trounced in similar fashion by Venice, 36-0, and seemed like “deer in headlights,” unable to make tackles and constantly turning over the ball.
Friday night, by contrast, they were efficient, organized and ready to play. This team looked like the one that went 9-2 during the 2019 season.
The first touchdown of the “Covid-19” four-game season for PaliHi came about four minutes in the second quarter, after quarterback Dylan Hassid, a junior, made a 20-yard run from the Fairfax 42. He passed to senior Brandon Forrest, who ran for the TD. Kicker Sebastian Conway-Burt, a senior, made the first of five extra points.
Unlike the Venice game, Pali’s defense came out and made the tackles that kept Fairfax from moving the ball.
Late in the second quarter, the Lions punted to their own 49, which gave Pali excellent field position. This time Hassid handed the ball to Forrest, who found the holes and zigzagged his way into the endzone for the score.
The Dolphins received the second half kickoff. Starting on their own 35 yard line, they worked their way up the field to the Fairfax 25. Hassid passed to Xavier Smith, who scored the touchdown. With the extra point good, the score was 21-0.
The Dolpins continued to dominate offensively, on a subsequent punt and turnover. Forrest helped move the ball to the 50 as a receiver. Hassid passed to running back Daniel Anoh, a junior, for a 20-yard gain, and then ran the ball himself down to the 15. After a loss of five yards and a subsequent penalty, Hassid passed to Anoh for a 25-yard TD.
A couple of key tackles by junior Ryan Crayton, sophomore Tobi Manheim and freshman Josh Russell forced the Lions to turn over the ball on downs on Pali’s 40 yard line. On second down, Anoh took the ball into the end zone with a beautiful 31-yard run.
The lone Fairfax TD came on a 60-yard pass play with five minutes left in the game.
After kickoff, the Dolphins were unable to move the ball and punted. As the Lions tried to move the ball Pali’s Matthew King made an interception at the Fairfax 19. And Hassid then handed off twice to sophomore Christopher Washington, who scored the game’s final TD.
After the game, Coach Tim Hyde, who is in his eighth year at PaliHi, said that the season is more than just practice or getting ready for the fall.
“We’re keeping score, we’re competing,” he said. “It’s playing now.” He was thankful that the seniors who elected to play were getting a chance to experience some game action.
Hyde was asked about the difference between this and the Venice game. “It comes down to, how do you respond,” he said. “The guys played hard.”
The team is young and includes freshmen and sophomores, with only a few seniors. Many former starters elected not to play in the four games that were scheduled this spring, and Pali’s senior quarterback transferred to City champion Birmingham.
The next game is Senior Day at PaliHi against Garfield next Saturday at 2 p.m. (Garfield lost to Venice, 35-10, on Saturday). The final game of the season will be at Westchester, starting at 6 p.m. on April 30.
If you can’t attend the games, parent James Riley, who has had two sons go through the program and a third, Savyour Riley, playing this year, runs a Facebook live play-by-play on game day (facebook.com/paliquarterbackclub/).