It was a wild football game Friday night as the Palisades High Dolphins defeated Westchester, 16-12, at the Comets’ stadium. Pali ended the Covid-shortened season with a 3-l record.
The Dolphins were deep in talent and Westchester always has a strong program, but Pali Head Coach Tim Hyde summed it up best afterwards when he told his team, “You guys made 18,000 mistakes, but we still got the win.”
Westchester received the opening kickoff and drove 77 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Despite key tackles by sophomore Amari Yolas and juniors Johnny Babla, Ryan Crayton and Matt Fahn, the Comets couldn’t be stopped. But the PAT was no good.
After the kickoff went out of bounds, Pali started on its own 40 and advanced to Westchester’s 28 as junior quarterback Dylan Hassid (6-0, 195 pounds) handed off to Isaias Alegria and passed to Moses Ross and Brandon Forrest.
Hassid was then intercepted at the Comet two yard line, but Pali defenders Jack and John Babla and Trinity Camden forced a safety to give the Dolphins two points.
After Westchester kicked off, Pali drove 53 yards down to Westchester’s 27 behind runs by juniors Daniel Anoh and Christopher Washington and passes to Forrest. On fourth down, Hassid threw his second interception.
The Comets started on their own 20 yard line. Back-to-back penalties stopped their momentum at the Westchester 36 before sophomore Amari Yolas recovered a fumble. A 19-yard pass to junior Moses Ross put the Dolphins on the Westchester 12 with only a minute left in the half. Yet once again, Hassid was intercepted.
After starting the second half with a fourth-down punt, the Dolphins caught a break when they recovered another fumble at the Westchester 40. This time they advanced to the 10 yard line before Sebastian Conway-Burt came in to attempt a field goal.
When the Comets were called for off-sides on two straight plays, the Pali kicking team was pulled off and the Dolphins elected to go for a touchdown. Senior Brandon Forrest ran one yard into the endzone, and Conway-Burt’s PAT was good, giving Pali a 9-6 lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Comets returned the kickoff to the Pali 45, and a penalty against the Dolphins put the ball on the 30. Once again, key tackles by brothers Jack (6-1, 190) and John Babala (6-3, 180), kept the Comets from scoring and Pali took over on its own five yard line.
Hassid was stripped of the ball in the endzone, and the officials called it a touchdown, rather than a safety. The PAT attempt was no good, so Westchester led by a baseball score, 12-9.
Starting on its own 21 following the kickoff, Pali moved downfield with the help of a facemask penalty by Westchester, runs by Anoh and freshman Josh Russell and a pass to Moses Ross. At the 21, Russell (just 5-4 and 145), broke loose for a touchdown run. Conway-Burt’s PAT was good, and Pali led 16-12 with 7:30 on the block.
But Pali wasn’t out of the woods, yet.
Westchester punted, but the Dolphins also couldn’t move the ball and Conway-Burt came out to punt. A high snap forced him to scramble for the ball and he was only able to kick it 10 yards.
Westchester now had possession on the Dolphins’ 40, but penalties plus a huge fourth-down tackle by Jack Babala gave Pali possession with about a minute left to play.
“I’m proud of the kids!” Hyde said afterwards, adding that “Covid football is over.”
He then encouraged the freshmen, sophomores and juniors who had stepped up to play varsity ball. “Take care of your grades,” he said. “Start lifting and running — let’s have a hell of 2021.”