PaliHi Football Tops Westchester, 18-12

By Sue Pascoe
Photos by Drew Vaupen

The Palisades High School homecoming game was decided in the fourth quarter on Friday night, and it kept everyone in the stands until the final whistle. With 20 second left, Westchester had the ball on Pali’s 49 and was desperately moving downfield. But senior linebacker Valentino Sterza intercepted a pass, and the Dolphins held on to win, 18-12. 

“Amazing,” said Pali Coach Tim Hyde. “This is the toughest Western League since I’ve been here. I told my players it would go down to the last play of the game. This was the best offensive game we’ve had this season [there were no turnovers, after several sloppy games].”

Dakotah Hamilton tackles QB

He continued, “We had a great second half with solid defense. This win was big.” 

Palisades is now 2-1 in league and hosts unbeaten Venice (3-0) this Friday night at 7 p.m. Fairfax is also 3-0 (having beaten Pali 14-7) but must still play Westchester and Venice.

The first quarter saw solid defense by both teams. With two minutes left, Pali stopped Westchester’s drive on downs at the 8-yard line. Behind quarterback Daniel Hayes and runners Dakotah Hamilton and Max Palees, the Dolphins marched all the way to the Comets’ 8, but had to settle for a field goal by Campbell Geddes.

On the kick-off, Westchester quickly rebounded with a 93-yard touchdown return. 

Ari Sallus for the sack

An interception by junior free safety Will Janney gave Palisades possession on Westchester’s 40 with six minutes left in the half. The Dolphins advanced to the 25, but a field goal attempt by Geddes just missed to the left. In the second half, the wind kicked up with strong gusts from the north, which both coaches factored into their strategy.

After a scoreless third quarter, Westchester maintained a 6-3 lead as the defenses continued to prevail.

Westchester had been forced to punt to start the fourth quarter, and Pali took over on the Comets’ 41. Hayes ran the ball to the 29 and Hamilton carried it five yards. Then Palees took charge, running the ball three times and scoring from three yards out. The PAT by Geddes gave Pali the lead, 10-6. 

After the kickoff, Westchester started on its own 10 and mounted a 90-yard touchdown drive, aided by Palisades penalties. The two-point attempt was no good, but Westchester still led, 12-10, with about seven minutes left to play.

Alex Vaupen received the kickoff at the 15 and returned it to the 30. Hamilton and Palees ran the ball well, and Hayes contributed an 8-yard run, before Palees broke through to score his second TD from the five-yard line. Hamilton ran the ball for a key two-point conversion that took away a field goal opportunity by Westchester in the closing seconds.

“I told myself, let’s just punch this in,” Hamilton said. “My line was amazing.” The senior reflected on how this was his last homecoming game at Pali, and how last year Westchester handed Pali its only league loss. “We got our revenge,” he said, and added: “You just don’t quit in the last quarter. I can’t wait until we play Venice.”

Offensive tackle Syr Riley said, “We had to fight hard to win this game. It was a fourth quarter game.” He predicts that against Venice, “The most disciplined team will win the game.” 

Daniel Hayes with the keeper

Offensive guard and defensive nose guard Ari Sallus, who has committed to UC Davis, said for the Dolphins to prepare for Venice, “We’re going to have to come out stronger in the first half, have a killer instinct.”

The touchdowns looked easy for Palees, running behind his huge offensive line. The sophomore said, “I felt comfortable in myself tonight.” And next Friday? “We’re going to have the momentum and beat them.”

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