Sophomore quarterback Sammy Silvia passed for 341 yards and four touchdowns as the powerful Palisades High football team crushed South Gate, 60-21, in the first round of the City Section Open Division playoffs last Friday night at home.
The Dolphins, who are talented on both sides of the ball, improved to 11-0 this season and have outscored their opponents by an average of 54-7 their last five games.
Pali must now travel south on Friday night to play San Pedro in the semifinals as it seeks its first-ever City championship in the open division.
South Gate managed to stay in contention most of the first quarter until the Dolphins blew the game open.
After Pali’s Giovanni Ferrero kicked a 26-yard field goal four minutes into the game, South Gate responded with a touchdown drive and a PAT to take a 7-3 lead.
With Silvia completing passes to senior Xavier Smith and handing off to the team’s leading rusher Daniel Anoh, the Dolphins drove downfield and Josh Russell ran three yards for the touchdown. Ferrero kicked the first of his seven PATs.
After a kickoff that went into the end zone, the Rams started on their own 20 but a fumble recovery, Pali’s defense and a holding penalty led to a two-point safety for the Dolphins.
The Dolphins started their next drive at the South Gate 30, and it took just two passes from Silvia, first to Eli Ghodooshim for 16 yards and then to Smith, to produce six points and a 19-7 Pali lead after one quarter.
South Gate drove deep into Palisades territory but was stopped on downs at the 12-yard-line. After a short run by Anoh, Silvia hit Smith with a pass and the 6-1 senior took it all the way for an 84-yard touchdown.
The Rams suffered another bad break on the subsequent kickoff return when Marcus Brown recovered a fumble on the 10. The Dolphins couldn’t advance, however, and had to settle for another field goal by Ferrero.
When South Gate was forced to punt from the endzone, Pali took over on the Rams 35, and Silvia quickly passed to Moses Ross for the touchdown.
After an interception by senior Ricardo Abrego at the South Gate 14, Pali was again stymied, and Ferrero trotted in to kick his third field goal. Then following another punt, Silvia connected with Smith for a short TD pass, making the score 46-7 at halftime.
Starting the second half, South Gate tried an on-side kick, but it was recovered by the Dolphins on the Pali 43. This time Silvia stuck to the ground with Anoh, who scored his only touchdown of the night.
The Dolphins’ final touchdown came midway through the third quarter when Josh Russell ran 32 yards for his second TD.
Pali’s second team then took over and played the rest of the game as South Gate managed to score twice.
Silvia completed 13 of 18 passes on the night, good for an eye-popping 26.2 average per reception. Anoh ran 14 times for 91 yards, including a 34-yard breakaway. Senior Barrett Gordon accounted for 38 yards rushing on just six carries.
Silvia’s favorite target, Smith, had a career night, catching seven passes for 213 yards and three TDs. Ghodooshim caught two passes for 48 yards, and Anoh caught three for 45 yards.
On defense, Christopher Washington had four solo tackles and Ricardo Abrego and Josiah Christopher had three apiece.
After the game, Anoh said that going into the game against San Pedro on Friday, “We have to prepare.” He said his teammates were focused on what they have to do to accomplish their goal of winning the City championship. “We are not giving up; we are going to do it,” he said.
Head Coach Chris Hyduke was asked about the result. “I was expecting a little more than they gave,” he said, noting that South Gate had been 8-1 on the season. “Our kids performed tonight. We’re glad to be moving on.”
Back in 1016, San Pedro upset the Dolphins in the City Section Division I quarterfinals. That game was close, and the Dolphins were deep in San Pedro’s territory until a holding penalty pulled the ball back to San Pedro’ 47 line in the final minutes of the game. Palisades had to punt, and the Pirates didn’t give them another chance at the ball.
“We should have won that game,” Hyduke said.
But now, “We’re going to do what we’ve been doing all year,” he said. “This is where the games really begin. There are four teams left in the City. We’re going to find out who’s the best.”