By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Any coach will tell you that a mark of a successful football team is its ability to run the ball effectively. That facet has been a staple of Palisades High’s program ever since Tim Hyde took over in 2013 and leading the Dolphins’ ground attack this spring are junior Daniel Anoh and seniors Isaias Alegria and Brandon Forrest.
Each of the three has his own distinct style, but all of them are rugged and possess the capability of busting a long run at any time. Perhaps most importantly, they feed off each other and each does his part when his number is called.
The Dolphins’ fearsome threesome put on a show in last Saturday’s nonleague showdown against Garfield, accounting for all three touchdowns in Palisades’ 23-0 victory at Stadium by the Sea.
With momentum up for grabs and the first quarter clock running out in a scoreless game Alegria kept his legs churning after initial contact at the line of scrimmage before bouncing outside and outracing the entire Bulldogs defense down the sideline for an electrifying 90-yard score—the Dolphins’ longest touchdown of the season so far.
It was Anoh’s turn on Palisades’ next possession, as he burst through the line as if being shot out of a cannon and scampering 46 yards for an insurance touchdown.
Forrest added the exclamation point in the fourth quarter with a 22-yard sprint up the gut, not stopping until he was met by his teammates for a post-touchdown chest bump in the back of the end zone. Like the three musketeers, it is one for all and all for one in the Dolphins’ backfield.
“We just planned all week that we had to execute our plays,” Alegria said. “The linemen came up really big for us today with amazing blocks and even our receivers giving us those extra pushes in that allow us to get extra yards… everyone did their part and that’s why we won.”
Alegria was the Dolphins’ fourth leading rusher as a junior despite appearing in only six varsity games. He carried the ball 19 times for 138 yards (an average of 7.3 yards per carry) and one touchdown. He was the Dolphins’ top rusher in their first spring game at Venice on April 9.
“Amazing blocking upfield allowed me to get to the edge and from their it was a race to the end zone,” Alegria said of Saturday’s 90-yard gallop that got the Dolphins off and running to a big win against a tough squad from East LA. “Any one of us can do that!”
Anoh, whose brother Matt is a senior defensive back for the Dolphins, runs with an attitude and never goes down from an arm tackle or a horse collar. No, he routinely drags defenders four or five extra yards.
“On my touchdown I had great help up front that allowed me to get momentum, I saw a hole and I hit it,” he said. “It was really important getting that first score and we carried the confidence we got from that all the way to the end of the game.”
Anoh emerged as a standout as a freshman on the league champion JV squad in 2018, rushing for two scores in a 40-6 triumph over archrival Venice and another in the finale at Hamilton. He excelled in the starting role as a sophomore.
Forrest was the offensive star on JV in 2018, so good in fact that he was moved up to varsity after the first six games. He played both receiver and tailback as a junior, amassing a team-best 362 yards on kickoff returns (an average of 26 yards a return)—including a 90-yard run back to open the game against University.
Forrest’s run put Saturday’s contest out of reach.
“The whole game I saw what they were trying to do, I saw that they were playing up hard on me, so I knew if it wasn’t me it was Isaias or Daniel who would break a big one,” Forrest said. “At that point I wasn’t even worried about scoring. The second half came around and Coach Brown told me ‘Don’t worry, you’re going to get yours.’ When we saw that they were loaded heavy on one side we ran the same play to the other side and it was there. So I only had to beat one man in the secondary.”
The Dolphins’ three-pronged attack kept Garfield guessing all game who would get the ball and to which side. By halftime, Palisades was in control of both the clock and the chains.
“We recognized what they were doing and kept calling ‘load left, load left’ so that opened lanes up the middle or against the grain,” Alegria said.
“We kept utiizing our strengthsm spreading them out, making them fight the boundaries because that’s what they were lacking at and we just kept attacking,” Forrest added. “We never let up and as the game went on we just wore them out. You could tell they were tired because they started missing more tackles.”
Having to run behind a brand new offensive line and with only a few weeks to prepare for the spring season, it took a game for Palisades’ tailback trio to gel, but they seem to have found their rythym the last two weeks.
“Not having our normal camp changed our whole attitude,” Anoh admitted. “Only have four games, we knew we had to be ready to go from Day 1. We also figured we needed to pick up the slack because we lost our returning quarterback. We knew we might need to rely more on our running game at first.”
Alegria and Forrest are two of only a handful of Palisades seniors who chose to play their final season and they have not regretted their decision one second.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Forrest said. “We had a lot of seniors who decided not to play… or who transferred to better themselves for the future and we don’t blame them at all—they played on this field and they’re always going to be our brothers. At the end of the day for me and Isaias to be two of the only seniors coming back feels right. We stepped up in a big way to take control of the team and make sure we’re all one cohesive unit. This was our last home game this year so playing here we had to deliver the beat down like we’ve been doing lately.”
Hyde has brought a physical style to a program once thought to be “soft” and this latest stable of tailbacks follows in the footsteps of 1,000+-yard rushers Palisades has produced over the last eight seasons, like Joey Velez in 2013, Desmond Box in 2014, Innocent Okoh in 2016, Dakota Hamilton in 2017 and Max Palees in 2018. The Dolphins’ rushing attack reached its apex in 2016 when it churned out 3,496 ground yards (an average of almost 300 per game) in 12 games, with Okoh amassing 1,965 yards and scoring 19 touchdowns.
“I’m so proud that Isaias and Brandon have stepped up to be true leaders for our team and they’re great examples of what it means to be team players,” Hyde said. “It is good to see them having success along with Daniel [Anoh], Joshua King, Christopher Washington and some of our other guys. We like to run the ball—that’s our identity.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.