Palos Verdes Loses Lead, Then Rallies

Times Staff Writer

It took three games, but Palos Verdes High School finally figured out how to finish what it starts.

After opening the season by blowing fourth-quarter leads of 14-7 and 28-14 while losing to Hawthorne and Leuzinger, the Sea Kings finally got it right Friday by pulling off a fourth-quarter rally of their own to defeat Westlake, 40-36, at Palos Verdes.

Palos Verdes pulled away to an early 14-0 lead and led, 33-15, after opening the second half by scoring on a fumbled kickoff by Westlake. But Westlake (2-1) rallied behind quarterback Brad Gossen, who threw for 313 yards and five touchdowns, to take a 36-33 lead in the fourth quarter.

This time, instead of folding, Palos Verdes fashioned a rally of its own as quarterback Dean Decker teamed up with running back Austin Peters on a 70-yard touchdown pass play with 3:21 remaining in the game. Peters, being covered by only a linebacker, got open on the left sideline.

The single coverage didn’t happen by accident.

“They bring their free safety up, and if you can occupy their corner on the weak side, you can isolate him (the receiver) against the linebacker,” Palos Verdes Coach Bill Judy said. “It became a footrace, and he’s (Peters) fast.


“That was the first time we threw that pattern. We put it in this week.”

Westlake’s Gossen, who had brought his team back twice, couldn’t do it again, as Sam Yoon intercepted his pass near midfield after it was batted around by intended receiver Gary Wellman and several other Sea King defenders.

Palos Verdes fullback Brian Connors then single-handedly ran out the clock, carrying five times for 44 yards.

Connors, who finished with 146 yards in 20 carries, also opened the game strong, weaving 80 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play. It was 14-0 after a 32-yard run by Peters, but then Gossen passed to split end Brad Fisher for a 47-yard touchdown and to halfback Gary Wellman for a 61-yard touchdown. Gossen and Wellman also hooked up for a two-point conversion to give Westlake a 15-14 lead.

But a one-yard touchdown run by Connors put Palos Verdes back on top, and the Seahawks scored again with five seconds left in the half to take a 27-15 lead when Decker sneaked the ball over from one yard out.

That lead became 33-15 when Todd Thompson fumbled the second-half kickoff and Shimizu picked it up and raced 27 yards for a touchdown.

“The two keys were my going for it on fourth down just before the half and the big fumble for a touchdown,” Westlake Coach George Contreras said. “Palos Verdes just had one more big play than us.”

Westlake rallied to its 36-33 lead by scoring once in the third quarter and twice in the fourth. Gossen had two short touchdown passes sandwiched around a long one. The final one came with 3:53 left in the game on a one-yard throw on fourth down to Wellman in the right side of the end zone.