Venice High School football coach Angelo Gasca said his team intends on ruling the Western League this season for the fourth consecutive season.
But most of all, the focus for the Gondoliers will be on one thing they have yet to achieve — a Los Angeles City Section Championship.
Last year Venice completed another dominant season in the Western League, winning a third consecutive league title with an undefeated record in league play.
But the Gondos fell short in their effort to capture a city championship after a playoff second-round loss to Crenshaw High School, and finished the season with a 9-3 overall record.
“I feel like the team accomplished a lot,” Gasca said. “It was certainly a successful season.”
While Venice had a number of highlights last season, including winning nine consecutive games, there was still a feeling of disappointment at not being able to win the city championship, he said.
This season the team’s expectations remain the same — win another Western League crown and capture Venice’s first city title.
“We don’t take the league for granted,” Gasca said. “Every game is important to us.
“The league championship is a worthy goal, but our final and ultimate goal, that we haven’t been able to accomplish, is the city championship.”
Although Venice has lost some star senior players from last season, the team certainly seems to have a returning squad capable of bringing Venice a city crown this year.
Leading the pack of key returning senior players is running back Kenny Ashley, who has already verbally committed to playing for Mississippi State University next year.
Ashley was rated by the Los Angeles Times as the number-three returning running back for the City Section.
Another star returnee for Venice is free safety Jonas Mouton, who is being recruited by such top college programs as USC, the University of Oklahoma and the University of Michigan.
“Having Kenny and Jonas back gives us a great start,” Gasca said.
Three other top returning senior defenders include lineman Ansley Clevil, tackle Martell Moore and offensive tackle/defensive end Michael Munoz.
While Venice has a group of seniors to lead the defense, the team will rely on a sophomore, Richard Ragland, to play quarterback. Gasca said Ragland is “very prepared.”
Ragland has been rated by the Los Angeles Times as the number-two quarterback in the City Section.
Other players expected to contribute for the Gondos include senior wide receiver Jerome Lowe, senior linebackers Chris Lewis and Andre Jones, senior corner Chris Woodard, sophomore wide receiver Quesean Gregory, senior center Joel Grenados and kicker Juan Sequenza.
With the return of Ashley, Venice’s running game should be a key weapon in the arsenal, but Gasca said the team has also improved at the receiver position.
The team’s experienced defense should also apply pressure to Venice opponents, he said.
Venice may appear to have the squad to cruise through the regular season, but the Gondos will face some fierce competitors early on who will not make the path easy.
Venice will again kick off the season against Carson High School at home at 7 p.m. Friday, September 9th.
Gasca said the Gondos will then face “a real heavyweight fight” against Loyola High School at Santa Monica College Corsair Field Friday, September 16th.
“Those games give you a great understanding of where you are and how good you are,” Gasca said.
Some other games that the Gondos look forward to are rival Santa Monica High School at Corsair Field Friday, September 23rd, and Banning High School, which Venice hasn’t played since 1977.
The Western League season starts Friday, October 14th, against Palisades High School.
“We don’t look past any opponent,” Gasca said. “We know that every game has an impact on the seeding for the playoffs.
“We have to take care of ourselves and prepare to succeed.”