Pali High Football’s Savyour Riley Follows in the Footsteps of Older Brothers Syr and Sy
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Whenever he steps on the field Savyour Riley feels a sense of pride knowing that his two brothers once wore the blue and white and are now living his ultimate dream: playing Division I college football.
Riley is a 5-foot-7 junior cornerback at Palisades High, where his older siblings preceded him and earned All-League and All-City honors at different positions.
Now, it is his turn to shine at Stadium by the Sea and he is determined to keep the family tradition going on the gridiron. His oldest brother Syr, a 2017 Pali High alum, is now a redshirt junior offensive lineman at Washington State while Savyour’s closest sibling Sy graduated in 2020 and is entering his sophomore season as a linebacker at the University of New Mexico.
“I guess toughness… I have a thick skin because of them,” Savyour says. “They’ve shown me how to be violent, be aggressive, be strong. I’ve learned to be a leader like Sy and to be vocal like Syr. Those are qualities they’ve passed on to me.”
Growing up in Inglewood, across the street from The Forum and SoFi Stadium, Riley started playing Pop Warner when he was 5 or 6 for the Crenshaw Cougars (later the Colts) Youth Organization for several years, then took a short break before playing flag football for New West Charter Middle School on Pico and Bundy, where he also played one year of basketball.
“During that year I had a heart condition so I had to sit out the rest of the season but I still supported my teammates and went to all the games,” he recalls. “I wasn’t feeling right and my doctor sent me to a different doctor who said I can’t play until they do a test on me, but I passed the test and I’ve been fine ever since.”
After learning the ropes on junior varsity his freshman year, Riley stepped up to varsity in the spring and played in three of the Dolphins’ four games, recording four tackles. In July, he was one of the standouts at the Royal Rumble Passing Tournament, intercepting three passes, deflecting many others and leading his team to the finals.
“I’m starting to see where I really fit in and those games gave me the confidence to grind and shine,” Riley says. “That’s my mindset right now going into the season—to grind, to shine and to play top gear. It’s up to me… the early bird gets the worm!”
Despite having big shoes to fill, Riley does not feel any pressure to live up to the family name per se, rather he puts pressure on himself to get the job done and lets other people make comparisons. If he ever needs advice or a pep talk, he knows who to call.
“Syr calls me three or four times a week whereas Sy won’t ever call me—I call him,” Savyour says with a wink and a chuckle. “We’re all busy with our teams and our classes but we all keep in touch.”
At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds Syr Riley is an intimidating presence and the Hospitality Business Management major has moved up the depth chart and hopes to see action for the Cougars in Pullman this fall.
Syr was named Western League Offensive Lineman of the Year and made the third-team All-State team as a junior at Pali High. He received numerous Division I offers and going into his senior year was rated the sixth-best guard prospect in the Top-10 Guards in the West by Scout.com. His senior year he was on the All-Western League first team and tied for Palisades’ most pancake blocks with 55 in 12 games. He also had a 63-yard interception return on defense and was rated a three-star prospect by 247Sports.com and Rivals.com. Syr was the Dolphins’ Offensive Player of the Year as a junior when he anchored a unit that allowed Palisades to rush for nearly 300 yards per game, led by Innocent Okoh, who ran for a school single-season record 1,965 yards and scored 21 touchdowns.
Sy, meanwhile, saw action in all seven games for the Lobos in 2020, primarily on special teams. He recorded six tackles at linebacker—three against Air Force, two against Nevada and one against Hawaii. A Communications major, he is loving every minute in Albuquerque and is primed to be a major contributor for New Mexico, which makes two trips to California this season—October 9 versus San Diego State in Carson and November 13 at Fresno State.
In his three seasons on varsity Palisades won 25 out of 34 games and Sy became one of the Dolphins’ most respected and best all-around players. He was given the Joe Spector Award as Team Co-MVP as a junior and again as a senior when he led the defense with 118 tackles, four pass deflections, three forced fumbles, one recovery and an interception. As a tight end on offense he had two catches, one for a touchdown in the Charter Bowl against Granada Hills. He was chosen Western League Defensive Player of the Year, made the All-City Open Division first team and capped off his prep career by winning the Palisadian-Post Cup Award as his school’s outstanding senior athlete, an honor that he shared with basketball players Jane Nwaba and Graham Alphson. Most of all, Sy was the driving force behind the Dolphins’ nine-game winning streak—their longest since 1976—and their first outright league title in 32 years.
To be sure, Savyour looks up to his brothers, but he is just as competitive as them and in a few years hopes to be suiting up in college, making even more memories for the family. His parents are educators (his father James even livestreams Palisades’ games via Facebook and provides play-by-play commentary) and never miss a kickoff.
“It’s great having so much support from everyone in my family,” Savyour adds. “I know whatever it is I’m going through my brothers have already experienced so they can give me insight on how to deal with it.”
While his brothers played under Coach Tim Hyde, the Dolphins have a new staff, headed by defensive guru Chris Hyduke (Hyde’s longtime mentor and his former position coach at Redondo Union) and offensive coordinator Rocky Montz. Hyduke sees plenty of potential in Riley—he just needs more games under his belt.
“Savyour has great instincts and isn’t afraid to be physical,” Hyduke says. “He’s got tremendous upside and he plays with an attitude. The more he learns, the better he gets. I’m eager to see what he does now with a full 10-game season.”
The season is right around the corner with a scrimmage against Birmingham next Thursday and the Dolphins’ opener against Cleveland the Friday after. Riley maintains that his team will be ready.
“I believe we’ll be more of a running team but we have the ability to mix it up,” he says. “We’ve got to be well-conditioned, we’ve got to be quicker, we’ve got to execute and be able to do things on the field the same way we do in practice. I mean… practice makes perfect, right?”
Despite his sophomore season being reduced to a few games, Riley embraced the opportunity to compete on the varsity level.
“Those four games I was like ‘what is this going to be about?’ Basically, I learned the coverages and I learned what varsity players learn,” he says. “It’s no longer JV, there are no playoffs, it’s a short season so I got to see the different roles and what it’s like. The biggest differences are more complex playcalling and the speed. Coach Montz wants to go up tempo, he wants to go no huddle, he wants to go quick so he wants us to be really conditioned. Now, I’m not an offensive dude but we’ve got to be conditioned on defense too.”
Defensive backs are often on an island and Riley relishes the challenge of one-on-one matchups with the opposing teams’ top receivers. A little bump at the line of scrimmage is all he requires to get the upper hand and disrupt the play after the snap.
“You have to read the patterns, if someone’s coming in, someone is definitely going to come out,” Riley adds. “You’ve got to be able to anticipate, you’ve got to read two to one, three to one and you’ve got to be able to see the field, look into the backfield and make plays.”
Like his brothers before him, Savyour has aspirations of playing at the next level and with their guidance and his dedication he hopes to make that dream a reality.
“That is one of my goals, yes—everybody who plays football has that goal,” he says, adjusting the sweatband on his forehead. “That’s my goal, get a scholarship to play in college, and hopefully I’ll get there. Regardless, I already have my sights set on what I want to do after football.”
Riley has developed close bonds with several teammates: “Marcus [Brown] and Christopher [Washington] are my homies. We talk a lot. Those are my guys!”
Getting to and from school can be an arduous ordeal, but Riley is not one to make excuses. On the contrary, he figured out fast how to manage his time.
“For a regular school day I’ll wake up around 5, shower, brush my teeth,” he explains. “The bus leaves around 6:30, gets to school about 7:20ish, class starts at 7:50. School ends at 2 and we get to the field at 2:15 to start practicing.”
Riley says a goal for this year’s team is winning an Open Division playoff game—something Palisades has never done. Beating Venice is also a priority: “It’s already circled on the calendar. That left a bad taste in our mouths, now we want to leave them with a bad taste in their mouths.”
Just as his brothers have been a role model for him, Savyour hopes to be the same for his younger sister Samaiya, a former dancer and now a freshman at Pali High who is trying out for the volleyball team.
“Over the summer I took a plane to go see Sy play,” Savyour says. “I haven’t gotten to see Syr play in person, but I’ve seen him on TV.”
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