By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The Palisades High football program held its annual postseason awards banquet Sunday in Mercer Hall and there were plenty of accolades to be spread around after a historic season in which the Dolphins surpassed all expectations by tying for the Western League title and earning their first City Section Open Division playoff berth.
“After our scrimmage with El Camino Real I remember asking ‘How are we going to win two games?,’” varsity head coach Tim Hyde said. “The fact that we got as far as we did with so many new kids is a testament to how hard this group worked. This has been a fun team to coach.”
Pali Quarterback Club President Lisa Manheim (whose son Eli is a junior on varsity) opened the festivities by thanking the teparents and volunteers for their efforts throughout the season.
Next, junior varsity coach Ray Marsden thanked his staff and paid tribute to retiring line coach Kelly Loftus, who was presented a replica Pali football helmet for his 20 years as a baseball and football coach at the school.
Receiving the Rookie of the Year Award was Ricardo Abrego. Lineman of the Year went to Nicholas Raddon and Jack Babala was chosen Defensive Player of the Year. Quarterback Sloane Senofsky was named Offensive Player of the Year and, in a new twist, tailback Brandon Forrest (who played six games at JV before being moved up to varsity) was presented his first varsity letter.
The Most Valuable Player Award went to kicker Sebastian Conway-Burt, who made 28 of 31 extra-point tries, four of six field goals, had 12 touchbacks, boomed numerous punts over 50 yards and made four touchdown-saving tackles on special teams.
The JV squad went 8-1 on the way to its third league title in four years (going 19-1 in league in that span), posted five shutouts and allowed seven touchdowns, outscoring its opposition 288-46. Fifteen players scored touchdowns.
Then it was Hyde’s turn to step to the podium and he thanked his staff (Defensive Coordinator Chris Hyduke; Offensive Coordinator Pete Gunny; line coach John Garcia; linebackers coach Jeremy Read and strength/conditioning coach Carl Winston). He also acknowledged former varsity line coach Larry Palmer, who passed away on Thanksgiving.
Hyde’s squad was the No. 1 scoring defense in the entire City, posting four shutouts while giving up 88 points in 10 regular season contests. Palisades also won its “Super Bowl” against Venice for the second time in three years.
Pancake Awards were given to center Justin Bahari (23 pancake blocks), left guard Meshach Santos (33). left tackle Jack Stansell (35), right tackle Obi Nwanonenyi (39) and Nick Calcaterra (66), then the four captains were presented certificates: seniors Stansell, Jake Nadley and Will Janney and junior Syaire Riley.
The Brenden Daley Compete Award (in honor of one of Hyde’s former players) went to junior tight end/linebacker Noah Ghodooshim; the Focus Award went to senior safety Keiji Patterson and the Back of the Year honor went to Janney, a wide receiver/free safety.
Calcaterra, a 6-5, 305-pound sophomore, was named Lineman of the Year; rushing leader Max Palees was named Offensive Play
er of the Year and Stansell was chosen Defensive Player of the Year.
Pali High Life Experience Coach Joe Spector, who has given the team MVP Award for 31 years, shared a story about the student body cheering after he flew in a helicopter over Stadium by the Sea before school in 1987 to dry the field for a playoff game.
Spector then presented Riley and Nadley with the their trophies and their names will be engraved on a plaque in the coaches’ office. It marked only the third time (and first since 2006) that co-winners were chosen.
Riley anchored the defense at linebacker, recording a team-best 110 tackles (21.5 for losses) with an interception and two fumble recoveries.
Nadley led the team with 38 receptions for 600 yards and six touchdowns and had a team-high six interceptions on defense.