Three Is Innocent Okoh’s Magic Number

Pali High JV tailback Innocent Okoh talks about the victory over Granada Hills.

It seems fitting that Innocent Okoh wears “3” on his jersey because it’s the number that best describes his contributions to his team this season.

The 5-foot-4 sophomore tailback ran for three touchdowns Friday afternoon to spearhead the Palisades High junior varsity football team’s 44-14 blowout of Granada Hills at Stadium by the Sea. The Dolphins set the tone early, marching 98 yards for a score on their first drive and Okoh’s legs did most of the work.

“That 98-yard drive took Granada’s confidence down — they couldn’t do anything after that — so it was a good way of starting off the game,” said Okoh, who also ran for a two-point conversion. “Coach is always saying ‘Follow your blocks’ and that’s what I did.”

Palisades (3-1) scored the first 30 points and bolted to a 38-7 halftime lead. Quarterback Jonah Manheim threw touchdown passes of 50 yards to receiver Jonathan Melendez and 74 yards to tight end Brandon Castro and ran for a score himself. Castro caught a two-point conversion pass and Pierre Kaku also scored two points on a reverse.

After the Dolphins recovered a fumble on the second-half kickoff, Okoh scored the game’s final touchdown on a 10-yard run. He sat out the fourth quarter along with the other starters but not before his all-too-familiar trifecta.

Okoh has rushed for 10 touchdowns in four games, including three touchdowns in all three of Palisades’ wins — which has impressed not only teammates, but JV Coach Ray Marsden and varsity coach Tim Hyde as well.

“We started that first possession with two incomplete passes and it was all Innocent after that,” Marsden said. “He and [fellow running back] Stone Maderer are a great combination. When you’re gaining six or seven yards every play you might as well keep doing it until they stop you.”

— Steve Galluzzo