Something to Prove
PALISADES HIGH FOOTBALL PREVIEW
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Last fall, a season that began with promise ended in disappointment for the Palisades High varsity football team. Sure, it tied for second in the Western League and reached the City Section Division I playoffs for the second straight year, but players and coaches alike thought they were better than their 6-5 record showed.
Now the Dolphins have a clean slate, a blank page on which to write the latest chapter in the program’s history. The question is, what kind of legacy will they leave?
“I asked the team after practice Monday ‘What are you going to be remembered for?” Hyde said. “It’s all up to you.”
The season begins Friday night and although the future is unknown, one thing Hyde sees clearly is speed – all over the field.
“This is definitely the most speed top to bottom that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “Now, it’s all about playing hard-nosed football. We’re going to keep it really simple, play snap after snap and get after it.”
After four weeks of practice, Hyde and his staff think they’ve finally found where all the pieces to the puzzle fit.
“Literally, it’s probably been a week since we’ve solidified the O-line – who’s going from left to right, where the sixth and seventh guys are going to plug in where needed,” Hyde said. “We know we have four running backs that we can count on at any given moment and a collection of receivers where we know who is going to play left and right and our slot.”
Hyde describes his team as a “work in progress,” but believes this group of players has improved the most since the first day of camp.
“It’s been a wonderful month and we’re a better team today than we were a month ago,” Hyde said. “Now we’ve really got to up the ante and keep improving, keep taking those positive steps. We spent a couple weeks moving guys around, getting them in the right places and we think this is the group we can go to battle with.”
Scrimmaging El Camino Real last Friday gave the coaches a look at the team through a different lens.
“Anytime you get film it’s good and we’ve watched more film this camp than anywhere I’ve ever been,” Hyde said. “It’s great for this collection of kids to see the steps they’re taking each and every day and the improvement.”
The mantra heading into the first game is simple: play hard until the clock reads zero.
“We have an athletic team and and they play hard – at the end of the day it’s how hard you play for 48 minutes,” Hyde said. “You don’t have to be 6-foot-5, 275 pounds to be a great high school football player. You have to play with a lot of energy on both sides of the ball. Scores matter from here on out.”
Last season, P.J. Hurst grew to become one of the top quarterbacks in the City Section, throwing for 2,220 yards and 23 touchdowns. Despite the graduation of his top four receivers, the Dolphins’ senior still has plenty of weapons – namely Pierre Kaku (a standout on JV last season), speedburner Ryan Ashmore, Chris Hooks, Justin Mason, Jake Taitelman and tight end Gersan Osorio.
The backfield is blessed with a bevy of talented runners, led by junior Innocent Okoh (brought up to varsity at midseason last fall), Stone Maderer, fullback Willy Rosenfeld and Nathan Grzesiak.
Charged with opening up holes and protecting the passers is an offensive line represented by Franklin Moran, Ari Sallus, Gage Stauff, Dennis Zavatski and Brandon Castro.
Other offensive linemen include Valentino Sterza and Caleb Robinson.
Backing up Hurst at quarterback are Gabe Galef and Jonah Manheim (last year’s JV starter) while Gus Cleveland, Christian Heard-Thompson and Jonathan Melendez will also play receiver.
Palisades was susceptible to big plays in the secondary last season but two things evident from the ECR scrimmage were the Dolphins’ closing speed on deep routes and their lateral pursuit.
The catalysts will be All-City linebacker and University of Nevada commit Alec Simpson, who led the team with 115 tackles last season, and outside backer Marrio Lofton, second with 91 tackles a year ago. Also at linebacker are Joshua Garcia, Quinn Perry, Chris Arrue, Jason Martinez and Noah Bleakley.
Patroling the secondary will be cornerbacks Aaron Butler, Oscar Romero, Donald Cook and Jeremy Chambers. Galef will also play free safety along with Eddie Burd and Kaelynn Lamothe will be the strong safety.
The defensive front will consist of Rosenfeld, Perry, Ethan Lewis and Jimmy Reyes, along with Daniel Grzesiak, Valentino Flores, Edmund Cook, Llywen St. John, David Gran, Nathan Campos and Syr Riley.
The Dolphins were fortunate to have All-City punter/kicker Ethan Erickson last season. Now he’s a walk-on at Cal, but filling his shoes punting will be Perry. Garcia, Taitelman and Osorio will share the placekicking duties, with Simpson and Galef available as capable long snappers.
By the time the bye week rolls around in Week 2, the Dolphins will have a good idea where they stand. After opening at Sierra Canyon tomorrow the Dolphins return home to play City Division II finalist Sylmar next Thursday.
After that are three contests against San Fernando Valley schools. First is a home matchup with Canoga Park, which has lost to the Dolphins the last two years, then comes a road game versus Granada Hills in the schools’ annual Charter Bowl. After wrapping up nonleague play at Chatsworth the Dolphins open league play at home against Venice. In Week 8, Palisades hosts reigning league champion Hamilton and the season finale is home against Westchester.
With last year’s starting quarterback, leading rusher and top receiver now all up on varsity, head coach Ray Marsden doesn’t expect the Dolphins to be nearly as explosive on offense.
“You’re not going to be seeing any fireworks shows like last year,” Marsden said. “The chance of us scoring 30 points will depend on how bad the other team is. Mark my words, we’re going to win a game 6-0 this year. All of them are going to be close, within one or two touchdowns.”
Noah Karp, last year’s freshman MVP, is the projected starter at quarterback and linebacker. Jared Dodson and Rayne Camden are competing for the backup quarterback spot, leading the receiving corps is Chris Howard and Devin Frye and Kai Henneberg will get the bulk of the carries at running back.
On defense, Karp had an interception in the ECR scrimmage and will anchor a unit consisting of defensive back Alex Vaupen and linebacker Dakota Hamilton.
“We only have one returning offensive lineman and he wasn’t a starter,” Marsden said. “The defensive line is our weak spot right now but the things that are broken we can fix.”
Marsden called this week’s extra bye a blessing in disguise.
“The offense will be more predictable,” he said. “My preference is to be 50-50 run/pass but realistically it’ll be more like 80-20 this year. The goal for inside runs will be to get three or four yards, the goal for middle runs will be four to five yards and the goal for outside runs is five to six yards. If we can do that — if we can stay out of second-and-long and third-and-long situations, it’ll open up the passing game a little.”
Dolphins Display Speed in Scrimmage
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The first play of last Friday’s scrimmage at Stadium by the Sea set the tone for the afternoon.
Palisades’ All-City linebacker Alec Simpson knifed into the backfield to tackle an El Camino Real running back behind the line of scrimmage – a testament to the physicality and speed the Dolphins displayed against a fellow City Division I opponent.
Later in the Conquistadores’ first series, Dolphins safety Gabe Galef intercepted a pass at the goal line – much to the satisfaction of head coach Tim Hyde.
“We’ve been going at it for a month, prepping all the way up to this point to get better,” Hyde said. “This was nothing but a practice, a pre-test. There was no scoreboard, we just wanted to see where we are since we kicked off camp July 29. What I loved is the energy. All 44 players were able to get on the field and have some fun.”
When starting quarterback P.J. Hurst led the offense onto the field, it didn’t take long for the Dolphins to find the end zone. Running back Innocent Okoh ran 15 yards on the first play and busted loose for a 25-yard touchdown on the second.
“The whole team was pumped, I was just ready to get out there and do what I do,” said Okoh, a junior who was brought up to varsity for league play last season. “I can’t do it without the linemen, though.”
Not to be outdone, Stone Maderer ran for two scores, going vertical on his first after a bruising run by Willy Rosenfeld put Palisades on the doorstep.
“It felt really good – I had that mindset that I’m ging to score,” Maderer said. “We still need to work on a few things but the line is getting better and better every day.”
Each of Palisades’ three quarterbacks got to play at least one series of 10 downs and the second- and third-team defenses saw significant action.
Pali High JV coach Ray Marsden was also pleasantly surprised by his team’s performance.
Chris Howard caught a touchdown pass from Jared Dodson and Kai Henneberg and Devin Frye ran for scores for the Dolphins, who played ECR on even terms.
“I’m a lot more confident than I was before the scrimmage,” Marsden said. “Noah Karp did well at quarterback and that position is his to lose, although Jared moved up the depth chart. Alex Vaupen had a few breakups on defense and Dakota Hamilton had some great hits.”
Sierra Canyon Loaded with Talent
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
No one can accuse Palisades High head football coach Tim Hyde of looking for a cupcake to kick off the 2015 schedule.
On the contrary, when the Dolphins travel to Granada Hills High for their opener tomorrow at 7 p.m. against Sierra Canyon they’ll be facing probably the most talented opponent they’ll see all year – and Hyde wouldn’t have it any other way.
“As soon as last season ended [Sierra Canyon Coach Jon Ellinghouse] was the first guy I called because I wanted to play a highly-respected team to start the season off,” Hyde said. “He’s a great head coach and it’s a fantastic program that won a state championship a couple of years ago.”
Palisades got a sneak peek of the Trailblazers’ talent at the Rio Mesa Passing Tournament in June – a game Sierra Canyon won 36-8.
“They’ve got a great group of athletes – which we saw in the 7-on-7 game – including a couple of linemen I’ve read about. That school produces extraordinary student athletes – they’ve got guys in the Ivy League, the Pac-12, all over America.”
Sierra Canyon went 11-2 last season, reaching the semifinals of the Southern Section’s Mid-Valley Division. It is loaded with weapons on offense, led by junior quarterback Niko Harris, 1,100-yard rusher Bobby Cole and receivers Christian Graves, Eric Markes and Kohl Hollinquest.
A small private school located in Chatsworth, Sierra Canyon has established itself as a football and basketball powerhouse.
“For us it’s Game 1 – that’s how we’re approaching it,” Hyde said. “It’s the start of a long grind.”
In each of Hyde’s first two seasons, Palisades opened against LA Marshall and outscored the Barristers by a combined 92-24. Neither Hyde nor his players expect Friday’s game to be a laugher.
“We have to do what we’ve been doing in practice, only better,” running back Innocent Okoh said. “If we do, it’s going to be a great game.”
Palisades’ JV team will have the night off, but coach Ray Marsden is holding a full-field practice to work on special teams.
“It’s one less game we get to play, but on the positive side we have more time to work on things – and we need it,” he said.
Tennis Aiming for Threepeat
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
When it comes to tennis at Palisades High, the expectation is always the same: win the City title.
The Dolphins’ girls team has done that 22 times, more than any program in section history, and will try to make it 23 – including three in a row – this fall.
The scary thing for upcoming opponents is that despite losing five players from last year’s City finals lineup, Palisades might be even stronger this season. One reason is an influx of talented freshmen, including Caroline Goldberg, Caroline Ross, twins Ireland and Sophia Amato, along with the transfer of ranked junior Calypso Peraticos, who was playing at a tennis academy in Florida.
“Positions aren’t set yet, but since we started the first day of school practices have been really intense,” said senior Madeline Prins, who won the City Individual doubles title last year with fellow captain Lizzie Belokonnyi. “There’s a lot of talent and I think we’re deeper, but it’s still too early too tell just how good we are.”
Although Prins and Belokonnyi want to defend their City title, Prins enjoyed success at USTA tournaments over the summer with senior Morgan Swan, who is happy playing singles or doubles.
“Whatever is best for the team,” she said. “Nothing is guaranteed.”
Bud Kling, who is returning to coach the girls this season, has seen his share of threepeats over the years and wants nothing more than for the Dolphins to secure another on his watch. He guided the boys to their record seventh straight City title in the spring and piloted the girls every year but one from 1984-2007, winning 22 of 23 league titles and 15 City crowns.
“I’m proud of the way the girls bought into the summer program,” said Kling, grabbing the reins from Sean Passan, who decided to take a voluntarily leave of absence with he and his wife expecting their first child. “My practices are very structured and we do a lot of drilling, but everyone has been receptive. I’m excited to be back and the team has really come together.”
Kling also beefed up the schedule, which includes nonleague matches against Southern Section schools like Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Calabasas and Mira Costa. The Dolphins travel to Newport Beach for the Coast Cup tournament in October and Kling is trying to add matches with Windward and Buckley.
“He definitely has a different coaching style, but Bud’s had such great success with the boys,” said junior Abby Schleichkorn, who played singles last season. She will likely be in the singles rotation once again along with Swan, Peraticos, Goldberg and sophomore Caroline Vincent, who is expected to play No. 1 when fully recovered from a foot injury. “I’d like to get far in the Individuals this year and win a round in the state playoffs because we’ve come close the last two years.”
Rounding out the squad are senior Selin Sindel, sophomores Alicia Abramson, Taylor Barfield, Madeline Goore, Alex Hart, Mercedeh Khazaieli, Lauren Neman, Sarah Silvers and Olivia Welch and freshmen Giovanni Feingold, Michaela Koski, Alexandra Miller and Jackie Schwartz.
Palisades routed Granada Hills in the finals last fall, but Kling is wary of a potential rematch.
“Granada Hills is very strong and could make it very difficult for us,” he said. “Our goal right now is just to improve and to get healthy. I’d like to see our doubles teams play more aggressively.”
Kling plans to give everyone a chance to play a varsity match at some point in the season, but he’ll put his best lineup on the court for the City playoffs.
Passan’s wife Julie gave birth to a baby girl, Cora, on Aug. 19 –giving Prins and Belokonnyi extra motivation to end their prep careers on top.
“We were the first people Sean told [that he wasn’t coming back] and we miss him a lot,” Belokonnyi said. “So we want to win it this year for him and Cora.”
Parcell Heads ‘Big Sister’ Program
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
“Great job!” “Nicely done!” Those were some of the encouraging words Palisades High senior soccer player Kaitlyn Parcell said after watching 12-year-old Denali Masi dribble through a set of cones at the Palisades Recreation Center last week.
A 7th-grader at Corpus Christi School, Masi is one of several girls Parcell trains as part of “Big Sister Sports” – a program she started to help middle school athletes improve their skills, practice techniques and conditioning.
“I started the whole thing at the end of my junior year because when I was in middle school there were a few girls, like [Palisadian] Ali Riley, who were really nice and mentored me through that time,” Parcell said. “She went to Stanford and now plays for the New Zealand national team and it’s great to be able to say I know her. I want to not only help younger girls get better in their sport but also be a big sister to them.”
Parcell, who led Palisades’ varsity team in scoring on her way to earning All-League and All-City honors last season, plays club for Real SoCal ECNL and has committed to Santa Clara University.
“To find the time I just coordinate with the parents through phone calls, texts and emails – we go back and forth all the time to find a time that works,” Parcell said. “Usually we meet at Pali or here at the park – wherever we can find space.”
Since the program was founded, several other Pali High athletes have joined Parcell. Training is now offered in four sports: soccer, volleyball, tennis and lacrosse.
“We have about 10 trainers total and each of us has three to five kids we try to work with once a week, sometimes twice a week,” Parcell said. “It’s personalized for each athlete. The target age range is middle school, but if someone a little younger or a little older wants help, that’s fine too.”
The Big Sisters staff also includes fellow Pali High soccer players Katie Wilkes, a junior goalkeeper, and senior Lauryn Wilson, who earned the team’s Defensive MVP Award last year; senior lacrosse players Mariam Zafar-Khan and Katie Sabini, tennis players Olivia and Zoe Stutman and senior volleyball setter Delaney Arth, who was selected Co-Player of the Year in the City Section last fall.
Ferguson, who also plays outside hitter on Pali High’s varsity volleyball team, trains girls in both sports.
“The best advice I can give is to be constantly working on your skills and stay disciplined – don’t miss practice unless you absolutely have to and if you don’t have a game that week you have to work on your fitness,” Parcell said. “And of course being a good student too because even if you’re a fantastic player you’re not going to get to college without good grades.”
Asked the best advice she received growing up, Parcell cited believing in yourself:
“Be confident that you are a good player, that you are going to improve in the future and that you can do it. Don’t shy away from a challenge. You’re not always the best, but you can work hard to get there.”
Parcell, a Level 2 trainer, has has been playing soccer since she was 7. She started playing club soccer with the Westside Breakers and has been a varsity starter at Palisades since her freshman year. Her own career was nurtured by Riley (a multi-sport star at St. Matthew’s) who went on to play for the Pali Blues and in the WPS and now plays professionally in Sweden.
“Our goal is to help young athletes reach their full potential while having fun at the same time,” Parcell said. “We want to be more than just coaches – we want to be role models.”
For more information or to enroll, visit the website: www.BigSisterSports.com.
Sands Brothers Win at Jim Buck Tourney
What a summer it’s been for Palisades High tennis brothers RJ and Jake Sands.
RJ went 7-1 at the USTA Zonals (a Level 2 national tournament) in Salt Lake City, with victories over Ben Gollin, Eric Hahn, Karapet Vardanyan, Alex Kuperstein, Randy Cory, Silbey Miller, and Cole Stofflet.
He continued the streak at the No. 2 position on the 8-player team in the Jim Buck Team Tournament (Level 1) in San Diego last weekend, winning five matches.
After going 8-0 at Zonals, Jake went on to win Northridge (Level 4), then won the 18s division (Level 4) in Irvine, defeating Weiyi Zhu in the semifinals and Victor Chang in the finals.
He then swept at No. 1 singles at the Jim Buck, defeating Ben Gollin, Ryan Seggerman and Weiyi Zhu.
Jake and RJ helped Palisades win the City championship in the spring and Jake made the finals of the City Individual singles tournament.
ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: William Schwartzman
William won his second tournament in a row last weekend, beating Sawyer Lai of Santa Monica, 6-2, 6-4, in the Boys 10s singles final of the Santa Monica Junior Open a level 5 USTA event at Reed Park. The Via Bluffs resident previously won the Boys 10s singles title at the Racquet Club of Irvine’s Summer Open Classic, a Level 4 event. Going into fifth grade at Crossroads School, William is sponsored by Pro Kennex and plays regularly at the Palisades Recreation Center. To nominate your favorite Palisadian for Athlete of the Week, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cross Country Squads Ready for Run at Title
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Palisades High cross country coach Bob Macias believes that in his sport, you never reach the finish line. For him, the beat goes on and despite losing four seniors – including the best female distance runner in section history – he believes his varsity girls squad may still have enough to defend its City crown.
“We’re ranked No. 2 behind Granada Hills and San Pedro is third, but if we can place two girls in the top 6 [at finals] I think we can pull it off,” said Macias, whose team totaled 56 points to repeat as champion last year behind three-time City individual champion Marissa Williams (now at UC Berkeley). “It’s not about how well they’re running right now, it’s really about how they’re running at the end of the season.”
Two reasons for Macias’ optimism are the arrivals of freshman Brittany Darrow from Paul Revere Middle School and Santa Monica High junior transfer Tatum Colby, both of whom have run 5:30 miles. Add to the mix juniors Chelsea Levi and Shannon Lee, sophomore Kimia Samandi, co-captains Kiana Billot and Emma Ulfvengren and the Dolphins’ might have the horses to three-peat.
“I’m joping Kimia can run in the 19s at Pierce College,” Macias added. “Hopefully we’ll have a few good freshmen for the frosh/soph division.”
Macias also has high hopes for the varsity boys, who were fourth at City finals last fall with 99 points. Palisades lost Shane Brouwer (ninth place) to graduation, but back are junior Jakob Pollack, the frosh/soph division runner-up as a freshman, sophomore Ben Hamer, junior Jack Hockley (17:01.49) and junior Connor Smith (18:03.23).
Others contributing will be standout freshman Brent Smith from Paul Revere, Finn Cawley, Jake Greanias and Jonathan Amiri.
“The boys are ranked fourth [in City] behind Granada Hills, El Camino Real and Monroe – so they’re right there,” Macias said. “Jakob was 10th and Ben was 12th in City last year and Brent [Smith] gives us a solid top three.”
Palisades last won the boys team title in 2011. “Both the boys and girls have a chance to win it,” Macias said.
Palisades opens the season Sept. 11 at the Seaside Invitational in Ventura, followed by the Woodbridge and Bell-Jeff meets.
Hart Verbally Commits to CSUN
Palisades High senior pitcher/shortstop Harrison Hart has verbally committed to play baseball at Cal State Northridge. Hart made the All-Western League second team as a junior last spring, pitching a four-hit shutout against Montgomery at the San Diego Lions Tournament and throwing a complete game to deal Hamilton its only Western League loss.
CSUN finished 33-24 overall and 8-16 in the Big West Conference last season under head coach Greg Moore.
Swift Gives Age the Boot
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Whether it’s on the field or in the courtroom, David Swift isn’t one to shy away from competition.
Soccer, in fact, has served as a healthy outlet for the local litigator, who claims being a lawyer is similar to sports because there are winners and losers.
Swift hopes to be on the winning side in December when he heads to Santiago, Chile for the Maccabiah Pan American Games as a member of the USA Masters (35 or older) soccer team. The criteria are simple: you have to meet the age requirement, you have to Jewish and you have to be good.
“Sometimes after a long day at work I need to go kick somebody,” Swift jokes. “In soccer, just like in law, you have to like the competition and I like to push myself.”
Along with approximately 50 other Los Angeles-area players, Swift participated in tryouts at Loyola Marymount University in April and he was one of only 22 players across the country selected to the U.S. squad, which also includes a large New York contingent and several players from the Midwest and Florida.
Swift is a partner at Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert, an entertainment law firm in Santa Monica currently representing the estate of Michael Jackson and Frank Darabont and CAA in their “The Walking Dead” profit participation case against AMC. Swift’s clients include pop singer Mariah Carey, American Idol co-creator Simon Fuller, the Free City clothing brand and Suburban Noize Music.
In 2013, as a result of his entertainment litigation work, Swift was named as one of Hollywood’s New Leaders by Variety Magazine. Swift is also very involved in the Los Angeles County Bar Association, currently serving on its Board of Trustees, its Judicial Appointments Committee, and on the Executive Committee of the Litigation Section. Swift also served as the President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Barristers.
In 2011, Swift was named to the New Leaders Council’s “40 Under 40” (a national award recognizing 40 progressive leaders under the age of 40) for his work as President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association Barristers.
Swift has played soccer since he could walk and at the age of 36 he still plays at a high level – largely because he’s been able to avoid serious injuries. He has kept his skills sharp by playing in his regular Sunday league and in a 7-on-7 league on Tuesdays at Santa Monica airport.
Over the years he’s also played in the Metro, East L.A. and South Bay Sports leagues, all of which his teams won.
“I consider myself lucky that I’m still playing but it gets harder every year to keep up with the young guys,” he says. “It takes a lot longer to recover from the nicks and bruises now.”
Swift played collegiately at Pomona-Pitzer in Claremont and has since competed in almost every league around Los Angeles. He went to law school at USC, graduating in 2004.
For the last eight years he has played twice a week in the City of Santa Monica League and his current team, FC Equinox, consists entirely of former college players, several of whom played professionally.
The midfielder-turned-defender grew up in the Bay Area, starting in AYSO and joining the Sunnyvale Alliance club team in Palo Alto in middle school.
“I was a pretty scrawny kid, a late bloomer, and while I played baseball and soccer growing up, but I was always better at soccer,” says Swift, who moved to Marquez Knolls with his wife Julie four years ago. Their 3-year-old daughter Hannah is a preschooler at Kehillat Israel.
“We’re starting my daughter in Super Soccer Stars at Temescal Park this fall, so maybe she’ll follow in her dad’s footsteps,” says Swift, who was in town for the Fourth of July this year and watched the fireworks from his house.
The Pan American Games will run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 and will feature over 3,000 athletes from 15 countries. The U.S. team will travel to Phoenix in October for a tournament against other international teams.
“This will be my first international competition since I went to Canada when I was 15,” Swift says. “I’m really looking forward to it, although I have to use my vacation time with my family to go. Brazil is supposed to the best team, but hopefully we can represent well.”