If its dominating victory in the Charter Bowl one week earlier was a sign that the Palisades High varsity football team is ready to bust out, then last Friday’s 44-6 blowout over Reseda at Stadium by the Sea was merely an affirmation. The Dolphins appear to be clicking on all cylinders heading into Friday’s Western League opener and now, halfway through the season, they are suddenly viable contenders for the league title. “You’re on the threshold of something huge here, fellas,” drenched Head Coach Kelly Loftus told his players after their most impressive victory thus far. “We haven’t won a conference championship around here in a long time. This year, it’s your turn.” There was no league title on the line Friday, no playoff berth at stake. Yet when Loftus was doused with a bucketful of ice water as the final seconds ticked off the clock it signified that from here on the Dolphins will have plenty to play for. “When you have a great running game like we do it really opens up everything else,” sophomore quarterback Conner Preston said. “They couldn’t really key on one thing. By the end of the game it was obvious that we had them guessing what we were going to do.” Even Loftus was satisfied with the Dolphins’ performance, so much so that he made Saturday morning’s film study “optional,” though a dozen or so players did show up to review the tape, which mostly showed Palisades’ defensive front pressuring Regents’ quarterback Jason Perez into hurried and erratic throws. “We missed the goose egg but we’ll trade that for two defensive scores,” Loftus said. “They scored on one long bomb but other than that they couldn’t move the ball on us at all.” Linebacker Chris Hanuscin and defensive back Tyquion Ballard were awarded game balls by the coaches after returning interceptions for touchdowns on back-to-back Reseda possessions, giving the Dolphins a commanding 25-0 lead early in the second quarter. Preon Morgan intercepted a long pass at the 11-yard line just before halftime. Preston had another efficient game, completing 11 of 22 passes for 252 yards and connecting with Khalid Stevens on a 43-yard scoring pass on the final play of the third quarter. Stevens ended Palisades’ first two drives with scoring runs of 3 and 4 yards. Joseph Hyman caught five passes for 158 yards and, for the third week in a row, had a touchdown nullified by a penalty’this time it was a 50-yard punt return called back because of holding. “With guys like Joe [Hyman] and Khalid [Stevens], you know if they have room to run they’re going to take it to the house,” Preston said. “So I just try to get them the ball in open space and let them do their thing.” Lineman Fred Carter punctuated Palisades’ defensive efforts when he anticipated the snap count and shot the gap to sack Reseda quarterback Jason Perez on fourth down, ending the Regents’ final possession. The lopsided score gave Loftus a rare opportunity to empty his bench early, resulting in 1-yard touchdown runs by reserve running backs Bladimir Martinez and Malcolm Creer. Darius Moore caught a 57-yard bomb from Perez for Reseda’s lone score with 9:16 left in the fourth quarter.
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