Pali High Parents and Athletes Circle Campus to ‘Let Pali Play’
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
Ever since the 2020-21 school year began, student athletes have held out hope that they would be able to participate in high school sports. With the announcement that LAUSD teams can return to conditioning today with testing and athletic clearance papers, hope has quickly turned to cautious optimism for Palisades High players who feared that time was running out.
Thanks to the conviction and ingenuity of varsity football players Matt Fahn and Jack Babala and assisted by Pali Quarterback Club President Lisa Manheim and team moms Jewlz Fahn and Marcella Babala, Dolphins athletes and parents staged a car rally last Friday afternoon to drum up support and awareness for Palisades’ athletic programs, which have been out of action for 11 months. They called it “Let Pali Play.”
“Jack, my mom and I were sitting at the dinner table thinking of possible ways to gather all the school’s athletes,” said Fahn, a junior defensive lineman. “Suddenly the idea came upon us to have a drive-by protest. While wondering what to call it an idea came to me: Let Pali Play. Next thing we knew everything was in motion and we were making it happen.”
Fahn and Babala spearheaded the effort by contacting players from every athletic team at Palisades and asking them to participate by wearing masks, making signs, decorating their cars and circling the campus for one hour.
“We have fellow athletes from lacrosse, basketball, volleyball and baseball who all wanted to get involved,” Fahn said, adding he believes the likelihood of the football team having a shortened season is 50/50. “We we’re hoping to make our voices heard and let everyone know that we want to play. I think it’ll have an impact because now we have a platform. It’s been tough being confined to my room all this time, but there was nothing I could really do to change that. All I could do is stay conditioned and stay prepared.”
The rally lasted from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and consisted of about 20 cars, each vehicle was adorned with signage and blue and white decor. Vehicles began on Bowdoin Street, made a right onto Erskine above the stadium, another right onto El Medio Avenue, another right onto Sunset Blvd., another right onto Temescal Canyon and finally another right back on to Bowdoin. Honking was not permitted in residential neighborhoods.
“My fingers remain crossed for something positive,” Manheim said.
Babala, a junior linebacker, surveyed the route and emphasized the rally was a team effort.
“We came up with the idea for the car rally when realizing nobody at the Pali administration level is sticking up for us,” Babala said. “We thought the most powerful and effective thing was to get all athletes from all sports supporting one cause—Let Pali Play. There was nobody at the forefront, but it was a group decision that this was a good idea and it’s what needed to be done. Me personally, I’ve always had a glass half-full mentality. I believe that all the work all the players have done in the midst of a pandemic is not for nothing. That’s why I believe we’ll be playing.”
The CIF has divided the 2020-21 athletic calendar into two seasons and Season 1 sports, which normally would start in August, have a small window of time remaining. Football teams, for instance, have until April 30 to complete their schedules.
“We’ve noticed at each level, from the Governor to LAUSD Superintendent, that the commonality when striving to play is pressure,” Babala added. “Our form of putting pressure on the administration at Pali was to host this masked car rally. We thought it’s the safest and most effective way to get our point across.”
Babala continued: “I’ve been and seen each varsity team for my freshman and sophomore year but this class, in particular, has a bond that’s special. The boys have all been talking constantly on group chats waiting to get our chance and opportunity to play. There’s no doubt in my mind this team will do special things when given the chance.”
Pali High’s football team won the Western League title last fall and made the City Open Division playoffs. The boys basketball squad won the City Division I title while the girls team won the Open Division championship and the SoCal Regional Division II title. Days before the Dolphins were to travel to Sacramento for the state finals, the event was canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak and sports in the City have been on hold since.
Several members of the girls basketball team, including Ivy Scott and sisters Sammie, Elise and Taylor Arnold, participated in the rally.
“Well. we all thought no one was sticking up for us athletes so we took it upon ourselves,” football wide receeiver Xavier Smith Jr. said. “We just made a flyer and it was posted by many different people and the outcome was great. I have a lot of friends on other teams such as the basketball, volleyball and soccer teams. They all came and showed support towards the car rally. I’m extremely optimistic as of now because we’re going back to conditioning soon. Hopefully that’ll lead to us having a season. Initially we were hoping to accomplish gaining the ability to condition and play. When we found out we were able to condition our new goal was to have a season. It’s been hard especially because of our love for the sport not being on the field with our brothers is hard. We all miss the bond and connection we had with each other.”
Other athletes in the rally were girls volleyball players Jadyn Laski and Camille Kosich and boys basketball players Bowdoin Brazell and Zach Haas.
As of March 2, COVID-19 adjusted numbers per 100,000 cases in Los Angeles County stood at 7.2 percent, well below the 14 percent threshold required. If the numbers continue to drop, testing would not be required before football games scheduled for next week, although Palisades High is not among the schools that could play then.
The City Section, which includes Pali High, will not host playoffs or championships for football, girls volleyball and boys or girls water polo. The goal is to allow leagues more time to play regular season games and provide as many opportunities as possible for student athletes. The CIF state office has canceled all state and regional playoffs for Season 1.
LAUSD athletic directors were set to hold a meeting today to prepare for conditioning to presumably resume Monday.
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