Pali High Football Closes Spring with 16-12 Victory at Westchester
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
It was ugly. It was frustrating. It was gut-wrenching. It was intense. It was many other adjectives, but in the end it was a ‘W’ and that is all Palisades High’s football team wanted from last Friday’s final game at Western League rival Westchester.
Despite four turnovers and numerous miscues, the Dolphins boarded the bus back to the Palisades with a 16-12 victory in hand thanks to gutsy defense in the closing minutes and a go-ahead touchdown by an unlikely hero.
“I’m damn proud of you [seven] seniors who stuck it out this season,” Pali High Coach Tim Hyde said to his exhausted but happy squad in the postgame talk.
“After that mess at Venice we wanted to end the spring 3-1 and we did. It wasn’t pretty, we made 18,000 mistakes, but you all showed grit and determination. Now let’s hope COVID football is finally over!”
Quarterback Dyan Hassid endured a rough outing, tossing three interceptions and having the ball stripped in the end zone for a touchdown that gave the Comets a 12-9 lead with 10:16 left. However, he shook off his picks to throw a 47-yard strike to receiver Moses Ross and two plays later freshman Josh Russell scooted around left end and raced 20 yards to the end zone to put the Dolphins back on top.
“Since Day 1 in pads we knew we had a special player in Josh,” said Hyde, who took over the varsity program in 2013. “His effort at practice earned him his opportunity to make a play for the team. We had a special play set up for him earlier in the game that we didn’t execute. I wrote the play on scratch paper and told the guys go block for him and let’s win this game!”
After the score, Palisades’ defense forced a three-and-out and it looked like the Dolphins would be able to gain a first down and run out the clock. However, a missed block, a sack and a high snap on Sebastian Conway-Burt’s punt attempt allowed Westchester one last chance from the 40-yard line with less than two minutes left. On the first play, Trevor Samuel caught a short dump-off pass and scampered for a first down to the Dolphins’ 40. Then, Samuel got gang tackled behind the line of scrimmage for a two-yard loss. Back-to-back offsides penalties pushed the Comets onto their side of the 50. The next play resulted in an incompletion, then Laquan Parker caught a pass over the middle for 15 yards, setting up fourth-and-12 at the Dolphins’ 37.
Quarterback Teyon Boatner rolled right and tried to find Parker along the sideline near the sticks, but the pass was broken up and the Dolphins took over downs with 38 seconds left. Two kneel downs by Hassid later and Palisades could finally celebrate.
“We got four games under our belts that we can use to evaluate and see where we’re at as practically everybody’s coming back in the fall,” Hyde said. “It’s never easy to win a game and Westchester always has athletes. Samuel is the best player in the league—real difficult to stop, makes a lot of guys miss. Our defense didn’t panic and made some plays at the end.”
Westchester received the opening kickoff and marched 77 yards in 12 plays, scoring on Boatner’s two-yard keeper, but the extra point was wide.
Parker intercepted a pass at the Comets’ 1-yard line on Palisades’ first possession, but three plays later Samuel was tripped up in the backfield before he could cross the goal line and the safety gave Palisades two points and the ball back.
Parker’s second interception at the 5-yard line put Westchester in range to extend its lead, but a fumble gave the Dolphins the ball again at midfield. They drove to the Comets’ 13, but Dontrell Davis stepped in front of a hurried pass at the goal line for a deflating interception to keep the Comets ahead 6-2 at halftime.
Palisades caught the first big break of the second half when Parker fumbled as he fought for extra yardage on a punt return and the Dolphins recovered at the Westchester 42. Senior Brandon Forrest, playing his final game in a Dolphins’ uniform, ran off tackle from one yard out to cap a 10-play drive and give Palisades its first lead, 9-6, late in the third quarter.
Hassid, a junior who was suddenly thrust into the starting role when All-League returner Forrest Brock transferred to Birmingham, connected with Ross six times for 96 yards. Forrest had two receptions for 21 yards and Xavier Smith caught one pass nine yards.
Daniel Anoh and Chris Washingon led the rushing attack after senior Isaias Alegria got injured and had to sit out the second half.
Westchester dealt the Dolphins their only league loss in 2016, but since then Palisades has won every meeting. The Dolphins won 18-12 in 2017 at home, 20-6 in 2018 on the road and 28-20 at home in 2019. In fact, Palisades has beaten the Comets seven of eight times in Hyde’s tenure.
Hyde has a 56-27 overall record at Palisades and a 28-10 league mark. In 2019 he became the first coach to pilot the team to an undefeated league title since Jack Epstein led the Dolphins to the Crosstown League crown on their way to the City 3A championship game in 1987 behind All-City quarterback Perry Klein, who transferred to Carson the next season.
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