Pali Loses Nailbiter to Venice, 34-28

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Drew Vaupen

What I like about the Palisades High School football team players is they’re not whiners. They play hard and give it their all. Friday’s game against Venice could have gone either way in the final 90 seconds, but the Gondoliers held on to win, 34-28.

With 1:28 left to play, Pali’s Campbell Geddes kicked a 46-yard field goal to pull the Dolphins within six points, 34-28. A long-time administrator on the field said he couldn’t remember one that long ever being kicked by Pali.

Everyone knew that the Dolphins had to try an onside kick—Venice was ready— but junior Christian Popescu managed to fall on it at the Venice 48-yard line. This gave the Dolphins one last chance to score.

Dakotah Hamilton gets wrapped up

They advanced to the Venice 28 and faced a fourth down and one-yard-to-go situation with 35 seconds left. Quarterback Daniel Hayes ran the ball but was tackled one foot short of the first down, and that was it.

“We fell a play short,” Coach Tim Hyde said after the game.“We played 48 strong minutes in a rivalry game and it went down to a foot.”

“We will regroup,” Hyde continued. “I’m proud of my kids. It was a great game.”

Palisades fell to 2-2 in Western League play and will travel to play University (0-4) this Friday night. Co-league leaders Venice and Fairfax, both 4-0, have a showdown at Fairfax.

Campbell Geddes kicks a 46 yard field goal with help from placeholder Jake Nadley

The Dolphins put together a long drive to score first, late in the first quarter, with Hayes passing to Cameron Bailey for a 20-yard touchdown. The PAT by Geddes was good. Venice couldn’t move the ball and punted. Bailey caught it at the Palisades 27 and ran it all the way to the end zone. Unfortunately, it was called back because of holding. After Venice recovered a fumble at its own 27, the Gondoliers took the ball upfield to score and tie the game, 7-7, with just two minutes left in the half.

Junior Zarion Smith returned the kickoff 11 yards to the Palisades 29.Handoffs from Hayes to Dakotah Hamilton and a pass to Bailey advanced the ball to the Venice 19, and with five seconds left, Geddes kicked a 36-yard field goal to give Pali the halftime lead, 10-7.

In the third quarter, Venice took the lead with a long scoring drive, but Pali rebounded. From his own 42, Hayes threw a long pass to Bailey, who caught it on the Venice 20 and ran it to the 8. Hayes passed to Alex Vaupen for six yards, then ran for the touchdown. The PAT put Pali ahead, 17-14.

A Palisades kickoff went awry, leaving Venice with possession at its own 45-yard line. The Gondoliers needed just three plays to score and take a 21-17 lead.

Venice receiver hurdles Dakotah Hamilton for a gain.

After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, Venice had to kick off from its own 25. The ball took a funny bounce and in the scramble Venice recovered the ball on the Palisades 48 to start the fourth quarter. The Gondoliers scored on a long pass play to move ahead, 28-17.

Pali roared back. Zarion Smith ran the kickoff back to the 38, Bailey took the ball to the Venice 49, Hayes moved it to the 46, and junior Jake Nadley ran it to the 40. Hayes hit Vaupen twice with passes and the ball was on the Venice four. Then Hamilton scored the touchdown, and Hayes ran for the two-point conversion.

With three minutes left in the game, Venice led by only three points, 28-25. But the Gondoliers moved downfield, and despite good coverage by Pali, receiver Chad Johnson made a spectacular catch in the end zone, putting Venice ahead, 34-25, with 2:45 left.

Pali’s ensuing comeback fell just short.

Baraka Beckett, who with Hamilton blocked the Gondoliers’ last PAT, had several key tackles and a quarterback sack. After the game, he said, “I knew they were hungry after we beat them last year. They were posting on social media and they came into this game with a passion. We tried our best and we played a good game.”

Will Janney brings down the ball carrier.
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