Pali High Football Seeks a Title

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Lesly Hall

Whether it’s on the football field, where the Palisades High School team was co-champion of the Western League last year, or in the classroom (the overall team GPA was 3.2 last spring), the football program has a good vibe.

Maybe it has to do with Head Coach Tim Hyde, who joined the program in February 2013, and his staff.

PaliHi’s offensive line practices for its season opener on August 26. Left to right, Syr Riley, Jimmy Reyes, Gage Stauff, Cole Aragon and Brandon Castro.
PaliHi’s offensive line practices for its season opener on August 26. Left to right, Syr Riley, Jimmy Reyes, Gage Stauff, Cole Aragon and Brandon Castro.

Hyde was at Redondo High School in 1987, playing offensive tackle and nose guard, when PaliHi last won the league title outright, but since his arrival, the Dolphins have reached the City Section playoffs three straight years in Division 1.

Prior to coming to the Palisades, Hyde was the defensive coordinator at Crespi and saw his team crush the Dolphins, 70-8. That wouldn’t happen now.

“This year we want to be the undisputed champs,” said Hyde, a former Marine who served in Somalia.

With 110 kids out for the varsity/JV program, the mood at the Stadium by the Sea is decidedly upbeat. Hyde, who graduated Concordia University Irvine, tells his athletes, “If you’re going to do it, do it the best.”

He and nine fellow coaches (all returned this year) emphasize three areas: player development, focus and being a “tough out.”

Hyde explained that a tough out means “you’re not going to win all the games no matter how good you are,” citing Steve Kerr’s NBA Warriors as an example. “But you’re going to compete so hard, that you make them (your opponents) earn the win.”

Coach Tim Hyde talks with starting quarterback Gabe Galef.
Coach Tim Hyde talks with starting quarterback Gabe Galef.

About focus, he said “it’s hard for 15-16 year olds to focus on now. They’re thinking about a girlfriend, the sandwich they’re going to have for lunch,” but the emphasis is on concentration, which helps players on and off the field.

Player development includes not only trying to update the weight room at Pali, but also how to give one’s best in practice, in the classroom and in town.

Part of Hyde’s success comes because he values team bonding. About a third of his players are locals, a third come from the West L.A. area and another third from downtown/inner city. “I have to glue this group together,” he said.

He combines his Marine experience— “About 30 dudes [in his platoon] from all over the country, all walks of life”—and his experience coaching at El Camino Commu- nity College—“so many people from so many different high schools”—to unite the team.

“It’s about the strength of individuals as a team.”

His first year at Pali, Hyde held a “sleepover,” where the players came for a weekend on campus during the summer. They camped out in the small gym on air mattresses and “I woke them up at 6 a.m. and we had practice on the beach,” he said. “We hiked to the top of Temescal. It’s about bonding, guys hanging out and learning about each other.”

“One of the things we stress with the kids is they’ll be friends for life,” he said.

PaliHi has seven returning players who made the first or second all-league teams last year.

One is senior Aaron Butler, a wide receiver, who has been a starter the past three years. He also plays defensive back.

Two other key seniors are Innocent Okah, a running back, and Gabe Galef, who will take over at quarterback. This well-rounded Palisadian has also had the lead the last two years in the school’s spring musical.

Hyde said that with three strong running backs, plus the fact that “Gabe is a heck of a runner,” the Dolphins’ strength will be on the ground. His offensive line is large and experienced.

Junior Ari Sallus, a 6’3” 260-pound tackle, has already had an offer from Cornell, and Hyde suspects it will be the first of many offers from Ivy League schools. “He’s just a well-rounded kid and high academics,” Hyde said.

One of the hardest working players is Brandon Castro, who lives near downtown and must wake up at 5 a.m. every morning to take the bus to Pali. The 6’1” 230-pound tackle, who has started the past two years, has taken his GPA from a 2.0 as a freshman to a 3.3 last spring. “His growth has been unbelievable,” said Hyde, whose goal is to get all of his players into college.

Last year’s players included quarterback PJ Hurst, who is a walk-on at Tulane, and Alex Simpson, a linebacker who received a scholarship to the University of Nevada. Another standout was “Chris Hooks, a wide receiver, who took the bus to Pali and received a full-academic scholarship pre-med at Tulane,” Hyde said.

Senior Aaron Butler has started three years for PaliHi.
Senior Aaron Butler has started three years for PaliHi.

The football program’s focus, Hyde said, “is about helping these kids go where they want to go.”

One of the most interesting coaches is Chris Hyduke, who was Hyde’s football coach at Redondo. When he retired he agreed to come to Pali and this year is coaching linebackers.

“It’s pretty cool coaching with my old high school coach,” Hyde said.

The Dolphins’ first game is at home on Friday, August 26 at 7 p.m. against Sierra Canyon. Last year the Dolphins took a trouncing against this team and quarterback Galef was asked how this season will be different. “We have a totally different offense and a totally different scheme for defense,” Galef said. “We’re looking fantastic this year and making a lot of progress.”

“We want to see the community supporting PaliHi,” said Tom Michael from the Pali Quarterback Club. “We want to see the stadium packed.”

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