Pride of Lions

Dolphins Doomed by Turnovers in 30-23 Defeat to Reigning League Champion Fairfax

By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor

When his number was called in the second quarter of last Friday’s Western League opener, Forrest Brock was ready.    

After seeing only limited action as the backup quarterback over the first five games, the Palisades High sophomore provided a much-needed spark to the offense and piloted three scoring drives, but the Dolphins couldn’t quite complete a late comeback and lost to Fairfax, 30-23, in their “Football Fest” at Stadium by the Sea.

Brock’s one-yard sneak ended an 11-play, 68-yard march that cut the Lions’ lead to seven points with 2:32 left, then the Dolphins’ defense forced a three-and-out, giving Palisades one last chance beginning at its own 36-yard line with 1:26 remaining.      

Brock spiraled a pass to wide receiver Jake Nadley, who was pushed out of bounds after a seven-yard gain. Two incompletions  brought up fourth down and after scrambling out of the pocket, Brock rolled left and launched a pass downfield that was tipped and intercepted by defensive back   Conroy Graham at the Fairfax 25 with 59 seconds left on the clock. Two kneel downs later, the Lions had escaped with their second straight seven-point triumph over Palisades. They scored two touchdowns in the first three minutes of their 14-7 victory over the Dolphins on the way to the league title and a City Section Open Division playoff berth last season.

“I was getting half the reps in practice and the coaches told me I might get my chance this week,” said Brock, who split time under center with Nick Ghysels on Palisades’ undefeated junior varsity squad last season. “I was nervous on the first snap, after that I was fine. I was feeling it and on the last drive I was looking for quick five or 10-yard outs. On that last throw I didn’t quite put enough on it to get it over the defender but I went out and tried to prove myself.”

Junior Jared LaViolette returns a kickoff in the first half of Friday’s Western League game at Stadium by the Sea.

The Lions (4-2) struck first when Andrew Cox, son of Fairfax Coach Shane Cox, picked off a pass by Palisades starter Daniel Hayes and returned it 72 yards for a touchdown slightly over three minutes into the game.

Palisades (4-2) finally got on the scoreboard when junior defensive end Immanuel Newell knifed through the line to block a punt in the end zone for a safety early in the second quarter. Brock engineered the ensuing drive, capped by a short Max Palees touchdown run that put Palisades ahead, 9-7.

Fairfax regained the lead on a 13-yard run by Jordan Reed and, after an unexpected snap led to a fumble deep in Dolphins’ territory, Juan Mendoza booted a 23-yard field goal to push the Lions’ advantage to 16-9 with 30 seconds left in the first half.     

Fairfax drove to midfield on its first possession of the second half, but a near interception by Nadley and a subsequent incompletion forced a punt. After Brock connected with Nadley on a 56-yard pass play to the Fairfax 2, Palees barreled over the goal line for his second touchdown and Tommy Meek’s extra point pulled Palisades even, 16-16, with 3:13 left in the third quarter.   

Reed ripped off a 61-yard run, then threw to a wide open Shawn Holly on a 13-yard halfback option play that vaulted Fairfax back on top. Then, on the fifth play of Palisades’ next drive, Jenz Tanedo scooped up a fumble and raced 53 yards for a score that gave the Lions a seemingly-safe two-touchdown cushion early in the fourth quarter.

“Self-inflicted wounds,” Pali High Coach Tim Hyde told his team afterwards. “We gave them 17 points and still almost won.”

Palisades drove into Fairfax territory on its next drive before punting. USC-bound quarterback Scott Harris sprinted 51 yards on a keeper before being tackled at the Dolphins’ 14 and the Lions were poised to put the game away, but linebacker Sy Riley forced and recovered a fumble to set up Palisades’ final scoring drive.

“Forrest made me very, very proud,” said junior tight end Noah Ghodooshim, who had four receptions for 41 yards and added a sack on defense “I told him how happy I was for him. After that first  TD I saw that swagger. He’s only a puppy, but this gives him a lot of confidence going forward. He’s only going to get better.”

Palisades defenders (l-r) Darion Robinson, Max Palees and Waka White tackle Fairfax quarterback Scott Harris in the first half of Friday night’s “Football Fest” at Stadium by the Sea.

Palisades played hard for four quarters, as it has since Hyde took the helm. In his six seasons, the Dolphins have lost by double digits only eight times.

“We’re a strong, hard-nosed football team and we’re a few seconds away from being 6-0,” Hyde lamented. “This one is frustrating because we had a golden opportunity to take it by 14 points. Still,  Forrest did a great job against the defending league champs and he gave us a chance to win. He’s played a little in every game except Brentwood and had we scored on that last drive we were going for it—we had a two-point play ready just in case.”

Brock completed 11 of 16 attempts for 148 yards and Hayes completed one of four passes for eight yards. Each threw one interception. Palees rushed for 112 yards in 17 carries—the fifth time in six games he has reached the century mark. Tayari Gloster added 36 yards in six carries, Nadley had three catches for 74 yards and Riley had 11 tackles.   

Brock earned respect from his counterpart, a good friend of Pali High receiver/safety Will Janney.

“That kid played well,” said Harris, who completed seven of 11 passes for 66 yards. “Pali’s secondary is solid. I couldn’t attack them deep like I wanted.”

Palisades faces another huge challenge tomorrow night when it travels to undefeated Westchester.

“We still have a shot at the Open Division, but it’s do or die—we’ll find out what kind of resolve we have after two heartbreaking losses,” Hyde confessed. “Westchester is 6-0, ranked right up with us and they’ll be at home. They’re a shotgun, option team and their quarterback is athletic as can be and averages nine yards per carry. On defense they’re huge, they’ll man you up and play physical on the perimeter.”

Ghodooshim fully expects the Dolphins to bounce back Friday.

Safety Waka White brings down Fairfax wide receiver Jesse Ramirez in last Friday’s Western League opener.

“I’m so tired of this ‘one play away’ stuff,” he said. “It’s more of a mental thing and we need to fix that. We know we can play a lot better than we did today.”

Palisades’ JV improved to 4-1 and won for the 16th time in its last 17 games with a 34-0 shutout Friday afternoon. The last time Palisades lost a Western League game was to Fairfax two years ago. Since then the Dolphins have won eight straight in league and head coach Ray Marsden was pleased with how sharp his team looked after a three-week layoff.

“We had a really good week in practice and it translated to the game,” he said. “We’re still learning but our defense has gotten real good. We’re controlling the line, hitting hard and flying to the ball.”

On Palisades’ first offensive play quarterback Sloane Senofsky   threw deep to Justin Gilbert and on fourth down Brandon Forrest swept left for a touchdown.

Forrest capped Palisades’ next drive with a six-yard run, Isaias Alegria dragged a pile of would-be tacklers across the goal line for another touchdown late in the first quarter and Forrest raced 65 yards on a punt return for a 27-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Sophomore kicker Sebastian Conway-Burt earned high-fives by knocking a Fairfax returner out of bounds to save a touchdown.

Senofsky completed a 35-yard pass to Forrest inside the Lions’ 5. On fourth down, Senofsky plowed into the end zone for the final score just before halftime.