The Venice High School Gondoliers wanted to challenge themselves, and that’s exactly what they got when Oaks Christian High School came into town.
The nationally-ranked Oaks Christian Lions visited Venice Thursday, September 28th, and showed why they’re also the top-ranked team in the Southland by the Los Angeles Times by convincingly defeating the Gondoliers 47-17.
The Gondos (2-2), ranked 22nd by the Los Angeles Times, had anticipated the battle with the Lions (4-0) since the start of the season and knew what they had in store for them, but Venice coach Angelo Gasca said his team was looking forward to the test against the Westlake Village team.
“They’re an impressive team,” Gasca said of the Lions. “It was a great chance to have our kids play in this kind of atmosphere.
“It was just a chance to play against a great team and challenge ourselves.”
The Lions’ two top senior stars, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and running back Marc Tyler, did not disappoint in the victory over Venice.
Clausen, who has committed to Notre Dame, finished 20-of-36 passing for 294 yards and three touchdowns, and Tyler, who has committed to USC, rushed for 219 yards on 20 carries and scored four touchdowns.
Despite knowing the skill and talent Oaks Christian possesses, Venice junior quarterback Richard Ragland said his team was still aiming for an upset.
“We were hoping to come out and have a great game and come out with a win,” said Ragland, who finished 12-of-25 passing for 180 yards and scored one touchdown.
“Everyone on offense could’ve stepped up. We had mental and physical mistakes.”
The Lions got on a roll early by scoring in their first drive of the game and took control of the first half, as they headed into halftime with a comfortable 28-3 lead.
The Gondos temporarily halted the Lions’ momentum after halftime by picking up two Oaks Christian turnovers but they were unable to convert them into scores. A 30-yard touchdown pass by Clausen to Tyler put the Lions even further ahead at 35-3 with 1:31 remaining in the third quarter.
But Venice then got a boost on the next kickoff, when junior running back Curtis McNeal, who finished with 102 yards rushing on 19 carries, broke free of Oaks Christian defenders and returned the kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown and 35-10 score.
“We started to connect in the second half and started to step it up,” Ragland said.
Just when it seemed Venice had found some light, Oaks Christian answered right back with a 31-yard touchdown pass by Clausen to senior Anthony Gildon in the opening drive of the fourth quarter.
But the Gondos were not about to go away quietly, as they grabbed their biggest gain of the night on a 64-yard pass by Ragland to junior wide receiver Quesean Gregory in their second drive of the final quarter.
The play set up a one-yard touchdown run by Ragland to cut the deficit to 41-17 with six minutes remaining in the game.
While both Clausen and Tyler left the game in the middle of the fourth quarter, Oaks Christian continued to do damage and put up its final score on a 46-yard touchdown run by freshman Malcolm Jones.
Although Gasca said he was pleased with his team’s effort on the field, they needed to execute on offense if they were going to take down Oaks Christian.
“The effort was good but we turned the ball over too much,” he said. “We didn’t sustain anything throughout the night.”
Venice opened the game with a 28-yard pass by Ragland to Gregory on the first play but the Lion defense stepped in during the drive and grabbed a Ragland interception — the first of three Venice turnovers in the first half.
Tyler led the Oaks Christian offensive show in the first half, racking up three touchdowns on runs of 47, one, and seven yards.
The other Lion score in the half came on a three-yard touchdown pass by Clausen to senior Sean Wiser.
Venice was in position to enter the end zone late in the second quarter on fourth down and five but decided to settle for a 25-yard field goal kick by junior Oscar Lee Lopez to cut the score to 21-3.
In the last game before Western League play begins, the Gondoliers will face host Banning High School at 7 p.m. Friday, October 6th.