Running back Ken Ashley’s impressive night on offense with four rushing touchdowns was enough to give Venice High School its first football win of the year at home Friday, September 24th, over Santa Monica High.

A handful of turnovers by Santa Monica only added to the Gondoliers’ 42-13 victory.

Venice (1-2) came into the non-league game after losing its first two games against tough teams of Carson and Loyola.

Santa Monica (1-2) entered the game after earning its first victory under second-year coach Michael Burnett against Palisades the week before. In order to get a second win in a row, the Vikings had to get through their tough rival Venice, who beat them 50-7 last season.

The Vikings looked ready to challenge Venice early when junior quarterback Kevin Poindexter attempted a 23-yard pass for the end zone, but Venice’s Talib Woods rose for the defense to reject the football.

Woods then pulled double-duty with a huge play on offense, after a 76-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Robert Ambers to put the Gondos ahead 7-0 at 5:00 in the first quarter. Woods finished with five catches for 143 yards.

“I was just reading the quarterback’s eyes and attacked the ball when it was in the air,” said Woods, referring to his two interceptions in the game.

“We were prepared to win and we made sure we executed every play.”

The Venice defense made another big play, this time for a score, when Jonas Mouton, who also finished with two interceptions on the night, returned a two-yard interception for a touchdown with 3:38 left in the first quarter.

In order to gain yards on the ground in the first half, Santa Monica relied mainly on three young running backs, sophomore Lewis Adeyemi and juniors Michael Henley and Daniel Locke, who totaled 100 yards rushing in the game.

The Vikings’ passing game struggled early when Poindexter, who was nine-of-20 passing for 140 yards and three interceptions, was unable to convert three-consecutive passes.

Venice took over on loss of downs at its own 29-yard line, which was where Ashley made his powerful appearance after a long 71-yard touchdown run to put the Gondos ahead 21-0 with 1:42 left in the first half.

“We had a great week at practice,” said Ashley, who finished with 14 carries for 237 yards rushing.

“I came up with my line and I couldn’t have done it without them. We just turned it up.”

Santa Monica didn’t let Venice enter halftime comfortably ahead without first making a score of its own. With only 24.3 seconds left in the half, the Vikings joined Venice on the scoreboard at 21-7 after a 35-yard touchdown catch by wide receiver Oscar Benitez from Poindexter.

The Vikings opened the second half with a long drive to the Venice 26-yard line, but a fumble was recovered by the Gondos, setting up another big 65-yard touchdown run by Ashley for a 28-7 lead.

“We did a great job defending in the first half but we had a couple of mental mistakes,” said Burnett, referring to the Vikings’ seven turnovers in the game.

“They had a little nerves and were a little overexcited in a big game. We were not consistent in the running game and Venice made plays.”

In the fourth quarter, Ashley continued his impressive rushing performance, as he picked up two more touchdowns for Venice on one-yard and six-yard runs, putting the Gondos far ahead at 42-7. Ambers finished 7 of 15 passing for 208 yards.

Santa Monica wasn’t done scoring and responded with only 30 seconds left in the game, after Brandon Weiss found the end zone on a five-yard run.

“We got some big plays on defense and that took the pressure off us,” Venice Coach Angelo Gasca said.

“Ashley had some huge runs, but we’re still not clicking. We’re still trying to become a team, and when we get the pieces of the puzzle together, we’ll be better.”

In other football games:

St. Bernard continued to have trouble executing on offense for the third-straight game and was scoreless in a 22-0 non-league loss at Harvard-Westlake Thursday, September 23rd.

The Vikings (0-3) looked to earn their first victory of the season against the Harvard-Westlake Wolverines (1-2), after losses at home to Culver City (36-6) and Cerritos Valley Christian (30-14).

St. Bernard fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter after the Wolverines capitalized on good field position from two punting errors by the Vikings.

St. Bernard was unable to gain a first down until late in the first half and earned only three during the game. The Vikings tallied only 75 yards of total offense against Harvard-Westlake.

The team will try to add a game to its win column at home against El Segundo High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 1st.

The St. Monica Mariners picked up a touchdown in the first quarter against Montclair Prep but were unable to add to their score the rest of the game in a 32-6 non-league loss at home.

The Mariners (1-2) entered their home opener at St. Bernard High School against Montclair Prep (3-0) after a 28-21 victory over El Segundo September 17th.

St. Monica’s quarterback Mitch Smith and wide receiver Jeremy Brooks both had strong performances in the Mariners’ first two games, but both players were less impressive against the Montclair Prep Mounties.

Smith came into the game fresh off of two big passing performances, including 243 yards against Artesia and 280 yards at El Segundo, but he completed 10 of 18 passes for 110 yards and two interceptions against the Mounties.

Brooks was also well below his first two performances with only one reception for nine yards, after racking up 129 yards receiving against El Segundo and 203 yards at Artesia.

In the first quarter, the Mariners fell behind by two touchdowns, but Smith’s 31-yard touchdown pass to Collin Williamson put St. Monica in the game. A failed two-point conversion kept the Mariners down 12-6.

Smith leads the Camino Real League with 679 yards passing after three games and Brooks is the league leader with 341 yards receiving.

The Mariners will next play against Santa Monica at Santa Monica College’s Corsair Field at 7 p.m. Friday, October 1st.

The Westchester Comets grabbed two second-half touchdowns but those were not enough to overcome a 17-0 halftime deficit in a 38-12 non-league loss at San Pedro.

Westchester (1-2) was outplayed for the second-straight away game after losing 44-7 to Narbonne September 17th. The San Pedro Pirates (2-1) took control of the first half with two running touchdowns and a 37-yard field goal, keeping the Comets scoreless.

Westchester had to challenge San Pedro with a running game that was missing strength from Comet running backs Joshua Henry and Gregory Ray, who were both out with ankle injuries.

The Comets found some success on the ground when Brian Jackson, who had 18 carries for 132 yards rushing, made the first score of the second half on a 3-yard touchdown run.

The Pirates went on to score three more touchdowns before Westchester jumped on the scoreboard again with a 47-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Baird Steptoe from quarterback Duron Sylvester, who was 7 of 15 passing for 129 yards in the game.

Westchester will be back at home at 7 p.m. Friday, October 1st for a non-league game against Crenshaw High School.

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