Offense Ignites as Pali High Football Christens New Field with 48-7 Rout of Sylmar
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
A big game atmosphere brought out the best in the Palisades High varsity football team last Thursday on a hot, muggy night at Stadium by the Sea. Motivated to win on their new field in front of their fans, the Dolphins pounded a proud Sylmar team 48-7 to stay in the hunt for an Open Division playoff berth.
“Our theme all week long was to treat this game like a qualifier,” Coach Tim Hyde said. “Our ultimate goal is to make the Open Division. We want to be in the top tier in the City, which means the first eight. This was another step.”
After throwing two interceptions and losing a fumble in the Dolphins’ opener six days earlier, quarterback Daniel Hayes looked more poised in the pocket against the Spartans, completing seven of 10 passes for 175 yards and three touchdowns, two to wideout Cameron Bailey and a 35-yarder to Alex Vaupen that gave Palisades a 27-0 lead right before halftime.
“The line blocked really well and it all starts with them,” Hayes said. “All my receivers got open. Cameron is super fast and Alex ran some great routs.”
Bailey, whose electrifying 95-yard kickoff return helped turn the tide against Cleveland, scored on receptions of 32 yards late in the second quarter and 34 yards early in the third quarter to break the game wide open.
“Coach looked at the defense and saw they couldn’t guard me,” Bailey said. “I scored on a jet sweep that was called back [on a penalty] but that didn’t phase me. Early on, we weren’t getting enough yards running, so we went to the air. Daniel is more comfortable with the team and it shows.”
Stadium by the Sea was first renovated 10 years ago and the Dolphins played their first football game on turf on Nov. 2, 2007, a 42-0 defeat to Western League rival Venice on homecoming. The result of Friday’s christening was more to the Dolphins’ liking.
“The game was exactly what I expected… we had to settle for a couple field goals but they’re a deep man team and we were able to get them in man-on-man matchups that took the wind out of their sails,” Hyde said. “Cristian Popescu made a great catch on a deflection to set up a score. Things went right from there.”
Dakotah Hamilton broke the ice with a three-yard scoring run late in the first quarter and Palisades was well on its way to one of its most lopsided victories in Hyde’s five seasons at the helm. Blocking up front proved to be a major factor.
“We take pride in that,” center TJ Michel said. “We go hard in practice and it all comes down to conditioning. I think I’m stronger on pass blocking and my job is to protect everyone.”
Hyde piloted the Dolphins to a share of the league title and the City Division I quarterfinals last fall and has even greater expectations for this year’s team.
“We really stress playing hard for all four quarters,” Hyde said. “Sylmar could’ve won that game last week. We thought this would be a black and blue type game.”
A rainbow arched across the sky above Stadium by the Sea during pre-game warmups and it proved to be a good omen, especially after All-City tailback Erinn Jones, Jr. was ruled out with a broken wrist after rushing for 200 yards against Crespi in the Spartans’ opener.
Sylmar, which beat Palisades 21-16 on the same field two years ago but lost to the Dolphins 21-7 at home last season, had to rely on freshman quarterback Emilio Contreras (whose dad Hugo is one of the team’s assistant coaches) and backup tailback Joseph Ramos, who carried the ball 20 times for 131 yards. Andy Magallanes averted the shutout on a 12-yard touchdown run with 4:11 left.
Campbell Geddes showed why he is regarded as one of the best placekickers in Southern California by capping back-to-back drives with field goals of 22 and 40 yards in the second quarter and converting all six of his extra point tries. He also had a 50-yard punt.
The Dolphins rushed for exactly 200 yards, led by sophomore Max Palees, a standout on JV last season, who carried nine times for 79 yards and scored the Dolphins’ last two touchdowns on runs of eight and 32 yards—giving him four touchdowns in Palisades’ first two games.
Seeing his first action of the season was Syaire Riley, younger brother of heavily-recruited lineman Syr Riley, and the sophomore was all over the field on defense, forcing a fumble and making nine tackles, including a sack. Valentino Sterza had a team-best 10 tackles, Noah Karp had eight (one a sack), David Pierre had six tackles, Baraka Beckett and Jack Estabrook each added four and safety Will Janney recovered a fumble.