The Palisades Charter High School football team has only two returning defensive starters, and the same on offense. To call this team inexperienced would be charitable.
But raw talent, athleticism and pure will power saw the Dolphins beat El Camino Real, 35-19. The stadium was packed for the home opener.
“We graduated 27 seniors,” Head Coach Chris Hyduke said. Two key players, including the quarterback Sammy Silvia (who threw almost 2,000 yards for 24 touchdowns) and linebacker Toby Manheim (All-City, First-team) transferred to other schools. The majority of Hyduke’s players are sophomore and juniors or had never started.
People may remember that last year, PaliHi went 5-0 in league, were 11-1 overall, with its sole loss in the Open Division playoffs against San Pedro.
But Friday night was a craps shoot – given the youth, the inexperience, this was a team that hadn’t scored against Birmingham in a scrimmage the week before, and they were facing El Camino, who was the Division 2 Champions last year.
Hyduke said after the game, “As coaches we didn’t know what this game would look like.”
But “I have to take my hats off to them,” Hyduke said about his players. “We couldn’t get a block against Birmingham last week, but tonight we got blocks.”
Two quarterbacks traded duties on the field for Pali, juniors Roman LaScala, and Zachary Lifton.
The Dolphin’s first score came after a drive from their own 20-yard line. Roman LaScala went twice to running back senior Christopher Washington, who moved it to the 50. A 10-yard pass to Junior Evan Nehrenberg, saw him take the ball to the 8-yard line and senior Savyour Riley took it in for the touchdown.
Junior Kellan Ford kicked the first of five PATs for the Dolphins.
PaliHi scored its second TD with a 23-yard touchdown pass from Lifton to Sean Grier.
Camino scored with about two minutes left in the half.
Pali responded, starting on their own 20-yard line, got a break with a ECR penalty and moved up the field. LaScala went to Washington with a 35-yard touchdown pass and the half ended 21 to 7.
The second half started with both teams unable to move the ball and a scoreless third quarter.
Washington received the blocks he needed in the fourth quarter, breaking through the line of scrimmage and racing 75 yards for a touchdown.
A pass interception for senior and PaliHi Captain Savyour Riley, was followed a few minutes later by an interception by ECR on the 43-yard line. That break proved to be the driving force they needed to score their second touchdown. The PAT was blocked by Pali.
Pali’s final score would come on a 19-yard run on a handoff from LaScala to Anthony Lieberman.
With two minutes left in the game, ECR scored, but failed to make a two-point conversion, making the final 35-19.
“The kids played hard and executed most of the time,” said Hyduke, who is in second year as head coach. “I’m happy anytime you can get a win.”
He told the players after the game there were too many penalties “and at bad times.” Hyduke said that was one thing the team would work on this week, “We have to get rid of the penalties.” The Dolphins had 11 penalties that cost them 89 yards.
The upcoming three games are away in the Valley: San Fernando (August 26), Granada Hills (September 1) and St. Genevieve (September 9). The next home game is September 23 against Brentwood.