The Venice High School Gondoliers reaffirmed their position at the top of the Western League with a 35-0 blowout of Palisades High at home Friday, October 22nd.

After earning back-to-back Western League titles the past two seasons, Venice (4-2, 2-0) is continuing its domination over the league and working its way to another trip to the Los Angeles City Section Championships.

Venice opened the season with two defeats to Carson and Loyola, but the team is on a roll with four-straight wins.

With players leading every offensive category in the league, the Gondoliers are proving that they are again the team to beat after the stomping of the Palisades Dolphins (1-6, 0-2).

“We’re getting better, there’s no question,” Venice coach Angelo Gasca said. “We played tough opponents early but it’s crunch time.

“We’re going to get a big test and hopefully we can answer.”

Running back Ken Ashley, who leads the league in rushing with 977 yards, easily answered Palisades’ challenge by racking up four touchdowns in the game.

Ashley’s performance wiped away several Venice penalties that prevented some other scores.

“It’s frustrating,” said Gasca, referring to the penalties. “Hopefully we can clean it up.”

Venice didn’t wait long before it showed its strength after a score in its opening drive. Senior quarterback Robert Ambers, who leads the league in passing with 1,321 yards, made an easy throw to wide receiver Jonathan Ortega for a 16-yard touchdown.

Ambers completed six of 12 passes for 101 yards against the Dolphins.

Palisades struggled to execute in its early drives, and the Dolphins faced more trouble after a punt in their first possession of the second quarter.

Ashley punished the Dolphins with a 40-yard punt return for a touchdown, putting the Gondos ahead 14-0 before halftime.

“I had great blocking by the line and I praise them first,” said Ashley, who finished with 16 carries for 158 yards rushing.

“The team played wonderfully tonight,” Ashley said. “We had a good week at practice.”

The Gondos did even more damage in the second half. Wide receiver James Armstrong got things started with an opening kickoff return to the 29-yard line.

Ashley completed the drive with the second of his four touchdowns in the game after a 13-yard run up the middle.

In Venice’s next drive, Ashley again broke through the Dolphin defense for a 20-yard touchdown run to give the Gondos a convincing 28-0 lead with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter.

Palisades could not find success on offense due to the pressure by the Venice defense.

Dolphin quarterback Dylan Cohen, who finished ten-of-21 for 80 yards passing, was intercepted by Venice’s Edward Newton and sacked on fourth down in the first two drives of the fourth quarter.

“Our defense was getting after it and they did not find success running the ball,” Gasca said.

Ashley was not done scoring, and he put the final touchdown on the scoreboard after a ten-yard run with only 52.3 seconds left in the game.

The Gondos still have some work left if they are going to add another Western League title this year. The preseason goal, according to Gasca, is a City Championship title, but Venice will focus on getting there by defeating one team at a time.

“We can’t think ahead,” Ashley said. “We need to have another good week at practice and focus on Fairfax.”

In other football games:

The Santa Monica High School Vikings continued their climb to the top of the Ocean League with a 28-18 league victory at Morningside High (3-4, 0-2) Friday, October 22nd.

Santa Monica (5-2, 2-0) is now tied with Culver City for the best overall record.

The Vikings have won four consecutive games this season.

Running back Daniel Locke put the Vikings ahead 14-6 after a 90-yard punt return for a touchdown. Morningside came closer with a score of its own, but the Vikings took the lead for good when Oscar Benitez made a 25-yard touchdown reception from Kevin Poindexter.

The Vikings will face one of their biggest challenges this season when they play at Culver City in a league game Friday, October 29th.

Strong performances by wide receiver Jeremy Brooks and quarterback Mitch Smith were not enough for visiting St. Monica High School to overcome La Salle High in a 41-18 Camino Real League loss Saturday, October 23rd.

The Mariners (2-5, 0-2) trailed La Salle (6-2, 1-1) by only a point, 13-12, after the first quarter, but La Salle bolted ahead with 21 second-quarter points.

Brooks finished with ten catches for 167 yards and scored on a 13-yard touchdown reception from Smith, who completed 19 of 37 passes for 254 yards and had two interceptions in the game.

The Mariners will try to earn their first league victory against Mary Star of the Sea at home at 7 p.m. Saturday, October 30th.

St. Bernard High School fell behind 34-2 at halftime and was unable to overcome the deficit in a 41-10 Del Rey League loss at Cathedral High Saturday afternoon.

The Vikings (0-7, 0-2) were kept winless this season after Cathedral’s Ricardo Galvez rushed for 215 yards and picked up three touchdowns against the St. Bernard defense.

St. Bernard, which scored a safety in the second quarter, added a touchdown in the third quarter, but Cathedral (5-2, 1-1) controlled the game.

The Vikings will continue their Del Rey League schedule against Bishop Montgomery High at home at 7 p.m. Friday, October 29th.

Westchester High School running back Gregory Ray rushed for 93 yards on 11 carries in the visiting Comets’ 16-8 Western League loss to Fairfax High Friday night.

The Comets (2-5, 1-1), who opened league play with a 34-14 victory over Palisades, came up short in adding a second consecutive win against Fairfax (3-4, 2-0).

Ray, who was injured during most of the early season, stepped up to lead the running game for Westchester. Running back Jamal Sutherland also contributed 33 yards on seven carries.

The Comets next face Hamilton High in a league game at home at 7 p.m. Friday, October 29th.

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