By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
The Palisades High football team held its first official practice Monday at George Robert Field and for head coach Tim Hyde and his players, it could not have come soon enough.
The Dolphins are coming off their best season in two decades and they have reloaded thanks to several talented transfers. One of them is junior quarterback Daniel Hayes, who started as a freshman and sophomore on the junior varsity team at Loyola High.
Having already acquired defensive end Baracka Beckett from Windward, Hyde added another piece on that side of the ball, Will Janney, a junior standout from Crespi.
Perhaps the biggest addition of all, however, is another transfer from Windward: punter/kicker Campbell Geddes, a top 10 talent at the Chris Sailer Kicking Camp.
“Windward’s going to 8-man, so they’re losing some guys,” said Hyde, beginning his fifth season at Palisades. “Daniel [Hayes] is going to be getting a lot of reps and I like what I see from him. Will [Janney] is going to be our free safety from the get-go and Campbell [Geddes] is legit. He kicked a 62-yard field goal at one of the camps. He went to about six camps and won the field goal competition at five of them. He’s one of the best in the nation and we’re fortunate to have him.”
Palisades boasted one of the best offensive lines in the City Section last season and should have a strong front line again led by Beckett and returners Syr Riley, Cole Aragon and Ari Sallus. Valention Sterza is back at fullback, Darion Robinson is up from JV to run the ball along with Max Palees and Dakotah Hamilton and the wide receiving corps includes Cristian Popescu, Cameron Bailey, Jared Dodson and Alex Vaupen.
“We’ve had an All-League tight end every year—James Mann, Gersan Osorio, Quinn Perry—and Jack Stansell is the best of them all,” said Hyde, who has a 28-17 record at Palisades and has guided the Dolphins to the postseason four years in a row. “I’m excited about our returning [offensive] linemen. We do have some inexperienced spots and we need to finalize our depth at linebacker, but it’s the first time we’re going into camp knowing who our 22 starters are.”
With the departure of Ray Elie, who got hired as the strength and conditioning coach at St. Margaret’s, a small private school in San Juan Capistrano, Peter Gunny steps in to coach the backs and receivers. He was a baseball and football star at Granada Hills.
“Next Monday we start wearing helmets and the week after that we’re in full pads,” said Hyde, who lamented having to practice on the baseball field while the turf and track are replaced at Stadium by the Sea. “It looks like the football field won’t be ready until Week 2 versus Sylmar.”
Palisades tied for first place in the Western League last fall with Westchester and Venice. This year, the Dolphins want to win the league outright and be one of the eight teams selected to the City’s inaugural Open Division playoffs.
Palisades has a scrimmage at El Camino Real on Aug. 18 and opens the season the following Friday at Cleveland.