Completing an 8-2 regular season, the Palisades High School football team beat Venice High School for the first time on Friday night, 14-7, at Venice.
The win enabled the Dolphins to share the Western League title with Westchester and Venice, each with 4-1 records.
“This was a great win!” Head Coach Tim Hyde said after the game. “The last time Pali beat Venice my daughter was a year old. Now she’s a senior at Redondo High School.
“When I first came to Pali three years ago, I wanted to beat Venice, win the title and host a playoff game at home,” Hyde said.
The City Section playoff game will be Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.–Pali’s first home playoff game since 1997. Pali was seeded sixth and will play the 11th seed Carson.
Palisades played some of its best football of the season against Venice.
Venice kicked off, and the Dolphins began the game on their own 15-yard line. But they methodically made first down after first down–aided by two Venice penalties–and scored a touchdown.
Senior quarterback Jonah Manheim ran for 13 yards during the long drive, running backs Innocent Okoh (33 yards) and Mario Lofton (15 yards) ran effectively, and Manheim completed short passes to wide receivers Cameron Bailey and Pierre Kaku (16 yards) before carrying the ball into the end zone. The PAT was no good.
After the kickoff, the Palisades defense forced a punt, and Pali began a new drive from the Venice 45. A face-mask penalty helped the Dolphins advance to the 28, Okoh and Manheim ran the ball down to 7, and Lofton took it in from there for six points.
Venice was called offside during the PAT. The Dolphins then went for a two-point conversion with Lofton carrying it across for a 14-0 lead.
Venice returned the kickoff to its own 40, and middle linebacker Quinn Perry got the first of many tackles, putting pressure on Venice and its passing game. “They have a really good quarterback,” said the 6’2” senior Perry. “The coach called a blitz, opening up a lane so I could get there.”
The Gondoliers’ only score came shortly before half, when the quarterback passed to a receiver who then passed to another receiver, who ran for a touchdown from Pali’s 35.
The second half was a defensive battle, with Pali’s Perry once again making key tackles. With four minutes left in the third quarter, middle linebacker Noah Karp recovered a fumble at Pali’s 35, but the Dolphins failed to capitalize, turning the ball over on downs.
Six minutes into the fourth quarter, Palisades had the ball on the Venice 7, but lost the ball on a fumble. Unable to move past its own 24, Venice punted. With three minutes remaining, a hard hit on a Pali player resulted in a fumble with Venice gaining possession.
Once again, Pali’s defense rose up to make a big play when Karp intercepted a pass on the 50-yard line with less than two minutes remaining. “I made a play on the ball and read it,” the junior said. “This was a team effort. Everyone played a pivotal role.”
Senior Okoh was asked about the game and win. “I can’t express how much it means,” said the senior, who finished number two in the City section in rushing. “This is way too good of a feeling.”
“We worked so hard for this one,” Manheim, a 6’1″ senior said. “Thank you’s go to my defense, to my whole line. We’ve been working for this for so long. It’s a team win.”
Senior kicker Jake Taitelman said, “I love this school. We fought to the end.”
Perry summed up the game: “This was a big team effort. We have a lot of chemistry and we’ve worked hard.”