South Gate Overcomes 17-Point Deficit to Deal Pali High Football its First Defeat, 32-31
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The Palisades High football team prides itself on playing hard for all four quarters. It did so once again last Friday night, but ultimately seven turnovers, several costly drops and a few ill-timed penalties proved to be too much to overcome in a 32-31 loss at South Gate.
“Our motto is finishing and we just didn’t do that today,” Palisades Coach Tim Hyde said. “We had them down by 17 points and didn’t make the plays we needed to make to put them away. It was a great comeback by them. We had so many opportunities and didn’t have the killer instinct.”
The Dolphins appeared well on their way to victory when Max Palees scored on a 12-yard run to give Palisades a 24-7 lead early in the third quarter, but the host Rams were not about to quit. They pulled to within seven points on a field goal by Pedro Mendez with 10 minutes left, but Palees capped Palisades’ ensuing drive with a one-yard plunge and suddenly the Dolphins held a seemingly safe 14-point cushion with only eight and a half minutes remaining.
However, Will Lucas scored on a five-yard run to pull South Gate within a touchdown with 5:25 left and, after forcing a punt, the Rams marched from their own 43 to Palisades’ 5-yard line. On fourth down, quarterback Ernie Arcia found receiver Dondell Findley in the corner of the end zone to make it a one-point game with 1:45 left.
South Gate chose to go for the two-point conversion and made it when Arcia scampered around the left side to give the Rams their first lead since the first quarter.
“In the timeout, coach huddled us together and asked what we wanted to do and we all wanted to play for the win,” Arcia said. “We called a pass to the right but they covered it well and at that point I just tucked it and ran.”
Hyde was not surprised South Gate decided not to kick the tying extra point.
“I would’ve done the same thing—and we did two years ago against Hamilton,” Hyde said. “You’re at home and you have the momentum, so why not? Give them credit. That’s an experienced quarterback they have over there and he made a super play.”
Palisades got the ball back at its 35-yard line, but an interception appeared to put the game out reach. The Dolphins’ defense rose up, however, and held South gate to six yards in three plays, forcing a punt. Palisades took over at its 28 with 40 seconds remaining, hoping to get into field goal range for kicker Campbell Geddes, but Lucas intercepted a pass at midfield and returned it for a touchdown. A clipping penalty nullified the score, but the Rams kept possession and ran out the clock.
Junior quarterback Daniel Hayes completed 12 of 24 passes for 110 yards, including a 32-yard strike to Cameron Bailey that tied the game 7-7 late in the first quarter. Hayes’ one-yard sneak gave Palisades a 14-7 lead with 1:05 left in the second quarter. Noah Karp’s fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff set up a 29-field goal by Geddes that extended the Dolphins’ lead to 17-7 three seconds before halftime.
Palees and Xavier Whitfield both had interceptions on defense. Jack Stansell had two sacks, Cole Aragon and Ari Sallus each added one and sophomore linebacker Sy Riley led the Dolphins (3-1) with 11 total tackles.
Dakotah Hamilton carried the ball 27 times for 192 yards, including a 50-yard run, Palees had 42 yards in eight carries and Bailey gained 56 yards in four carries and also caught seven passes for 85 yards. Alex Vaupen added three receptions for 20 yards.
Arcia completed 18 of his 35 attempts for 223 yards and two touchdowns and ran for one score.
Findley caught eight passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns and knew the ball would come his way on the five-yard out that gave the Rams (2-2) a chance at victory.
“We watched film on them and I studied how their DBs played in certain coverages,” Findley said. “I was going to fake right and cut to the pylon. The ball was there when I made my break. All I had to do was catch it.”
Hyde expects his team to play with an attitude this Friday. “We’ll see what kind of team we are next week,” he said.
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