PaliHi Dolphins Lose a Heartbreaker to San Pedro, 13-10

by Sue Pascoe
Editor

Photos by Drew Vaupen 

“We were one play away from the final four,” said Palisades High School Football Head Coach Tim Hyde after his football team lost to San Pedro High School, 13-10, in the City Section Division I quarterfinals on Nov. 18.

The showdown at San Pedro was a tough defensive battle that was in doubt right down to the final minutes.

Ultimately, two turnovers and a fourth-quarter holding penalty cost Pali dearly after the Dolphins shared the Western League title (with Venice and Westchester) and routed Carson, 41-0, in the first round of the playoffs.

Innocent Okoh runs around the San Pedro line.

Innocent Okoh runs around the San Pedro line.

On the opening kickoff, junior Cameron Bailey returned the ball to the Dolphins’ 41, but they failed to advance and had to punt.

The Pirates also punted, and Pali advanced from its own 31 to San Pedro’s 43. Unfortunately, senior Marrio Lofton, the team’s second leading rusher this season behind tailback Innocent Okoh, was hit hard and fumbled. The ball was recovered by the Pirates and carried 57 yards for a touchdown. The PAT was good.

Bailey had another long kickoff return, this time to San Pedro’s 49, and the Pali running attack–Okoh, Lofton and quarterback Jonah Manheim–drove downfield for a touchdown, with Okoh scoring from the 5-yard line. Jake Taitelman’s PAT was good, and game was tied, 7-7, halfway through the first quarter.

After that, the defenses and field-goal kickers took over.

Following the kickoff, San Pedro drove 51 yards and kicked a field goal from the Palisades 14, to move ahead 10-7.

The Dolphins responded with a drive down to San Pedro’s 39, but the Pirates intercepted a pass on the 14. The strong Pali defense forced another punt, and the offense took over on San Pedro’s 48. Manheim passed to Quinn Perry who was tackled on the 18, and Okoh helped run the ball down to the 4, but two penalties moved the Dolphins back to 30, and San Pedro took over.

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, Palisades came out and surprised San Pedro with an onside kick, recovering the ball on the Pirates’ 41. This time the Dolphins drove down to the 8-yard line, only to be stymied by a holding penalty and San Pedro’s tough defense. Pali had to settle for a field goal by Taitelman, tying the game at 10-10.

On San Pedro’s next possession, the Pirates advanced to Pali’s 23 and kicked what proved to be the winning field goal.

The game went back and forth with neither team being able to score. The Palisades defense was led by Perry, who had five tackles and seven assists, and junior Dakota Hamilton, who had four tackles and 11 assists.

The Dolphins had trouble with their passing attack most of the game, but halfway through the fourth quarter, Manheim connected with Bailey for a 40-yard play down to the San Pedro 2. Alas, a holding penalty against the Dolphins brought the ball back to the 47, and that ended their scoring hopes.

Pali punted and San Pedro managed to keep possession to end the game, 13-10.

“It was a good hard-nosed defensive game,” Coach Hyde said. “We had two turnovers, they had none. We got deep in their red zone three times. We took them down to the very end of the game.”

“We had a great opportunity, but we didn’t pull it out,” said Manheim, who started the season as a tight end, but moved to quarterback when senior Gabriel Galef was injured in the first game against Serra Canyon. “It’s been an amazing season. This team was what you would call a brotherhood and a family.”

 “We didn’t execute every play like we wanted,” Okoh said. “We knew what they were going to do and we knew what we had to do.”

Okoh, who led the City Section in rushing with 1,965 yards and who had 132 yards in 25 carries against San Pedro said, “It was a game to remember.”

Senior Brandon Castro, who started as left tackle as a freshman and then played center for three years, said “I’m going to miss this team. We have a great community.” He thanked Hyde and assistant coach Garcia for teaching him the position.

“This was the second-best front seven we played,” Hyde said. “We played unbelievably well against the third-ranked team [San Pedro] in the City.” He noted that Pali finished the season against Venice, Carson and San Pedro, perennial City football powers.

“This season had been a hell of a ride,” Hyde said. The Dolphins were 9-3 overall and 4-1 in league play, and Hyde promises they’re ready for the next season. “I suited up 47 and 30 are coming back next year.”

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