First Down

Palisades running back Kenny Cline breaks into the secondary during last Friday night’s Western League opener against Westchester at Stadium by the Sea. The Dolphins prevailed 28-20 and improved to 5-1.
Photo: Craig Weston

Dolphins Stay Aggressive to Beat Westchester 28-20 in Western League Opener

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

When Max Palees dragged three defenders with him across the goal line to score the clinching touchdown in the Palisades High varsity football team’s 28-20 victory over Westchester in last Friday night’s Western League opener at Stadium by the Sea, it epitomized what the season has been about for the Dolphins: finding a way to get it done.

Palees took a handoff from quarterback Forrest Brock and was immediately wrapped up in the backfield by several linemen. However, he maintained his balance, kept his legs churning, broke a few tackles and 10 yards later he  was celebrating in the end zone with his teammates.

Westchester wide receiver Jules Brown catches a pass just beyond the reach of Palisades cornerback Chandler Hooks in the first half. Photo: Craig Weston

That completed a 15-play, 78-yard drive aided by the cadence of Brock, who drew the Comets offside on fourth-and-three at the 15, giving the Dolphins a first down with 3:32 remaining. Palees scored on the next play.

“You have to focus on every snap… you never know what’s going to happen,” Pali High Coach Tim Hyde said in his postgame speech. “You can never rest until it’s all zeros on the clock. It was a sloppy game all-around, we were off a bit on some pass plays, but it was a great learning experience against a team that was bigger and stronger than us.”

The Dolphins improved to 6-1 versus Westchester, including 4-0 on home turf, under Hyde.

Kenny Cline had his number called 26 times and the senior fullback responded with 117 yards, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He also gave the Dolphins an early  lead with a three-yard run to cap a  four-play drive after a high snap gave linebacker Sy Riley time to tackle the Comets’ punter at the 24-yard-line on the first series.

“On the inside holes I couldn’t go anywhere,” Cline said. “On the outside runs I had a little more space to run. I know a lot of their players from middle school. Some are family friends because I live in that area. I was supposed to go to Westchester but I’m glad I’m at Palisades.”

Westchester went three-and-out on its second possession and after Palisades punted it got the ball back when safety Waka White picked off a pass in the flat at the Dolphins’ 18.    

“It’s the flood concept and the coaches drilled it into our heads all week, so I was ready for it,” White said. “It’s not anything new to us. When they got the ball back at the end we didn’t panic at all. You just have to remember to keep everyone in front and don’t let anyone get by you.”

Palisades proceeded to march 82 yards in 13 plays, scoring on a 12-yard pass from Brock to make  it 14-0 midway through the second quarter. Noah Ghodooshim caught a 12-yard pass on fourth-and-four at the Westchester 38 to keep the chains moving and five plays later Suisman scored.

A sack by Christian Duran led to a Westchester punt but on the first play of Palisades’ ensuing drive Matthew Rogan intercepted a pass at the Dolphins’ 37 and returned it five yards, setting up a 32-yard scoring strike from Julien Walker to Jules Brown that cut the Comets’ deficit to 14-6 with 1:09 left in the first half.

Palisades (5-1) received the second-half kickoff and drove 65 yards in nine plays, scoring on Suisman’s seven-yard touchdown catch­—his seventh of the year—to put the Dolphins back up by two scores, 21-6.

A sack by Immanuel Newell forced another punt and Palisades appeared poised to put the game out of reach, but Jules Brown intercepted a pass at the Comets’ 10 and returned it to the 33. Seven plays later, Ilyas Abdullah caught a 15-yard strike from Walker to trim the Dolphins’ lead to eight, 21-13, on the second play of the fourth quarter.

Palees’ determined effort was enough to give Palisades a seemingly-safe 15-point lead, but it was far from over.

The Comets (4-2) needed four plays to move 55 yards, scoring on Walker’s two-yard keeper with 1:43 left, and they recovered the ensuing onside kick at Palisades’ 40 with a chance to tie the game. However, three incompletions and a tackle for loss turned the ball back over to the Dolphins with 52 seconds left and two Brock kneel downs later it was over.