Putting the past behind them seems to be no problem for the Venice High School Gondoliers.
After recently learning that they will have to forfeit many of their victories from last season because they played with an academically ineligible player, the Gondoliers are not letting the news disrupt their plans this season.
They remain focused on capturing yet another Western League title and their first Los Angeles City Section championship and continued on the path toward the former with their latest league victory over University High School Friday, October 26th.
Venice (7-1, 3-0) took control early in its last home game of the regular season against visiting University (5-3, 1-2) and cruised to a 41-8 victory to remain undefeated in league play.
Star senior running back Curtis McNeal, who finished with ten carries for 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns, affirmed that the news of last year’s forfeit of victories had no effect on this season and that the team continues to “just play hard” each game.
“We couldn’t do anything about it,” McNeal, who is headed to USC next fall, said of the ruling that Venice had to forfeit wins last season.
After escaping with a narrow 17-13 league victory over Hamilton High School in the previous week, the Gondos knew they had to turn things up against the University Wildcats, McNeal said.
“We kind of downplayed (Hamilton) and we couldn’t let that happen this week,” McNeal said.
It didn’t take long for Venice to get things started in the quick first quarter, as the Gondoliers got their first touchdown on a 40-yard pass by senior quarterback Richard Ragland to senior wide receiver Jerry Johnson, who fought his way to the end zone.
Only seconds into the second quarter Venice added another score on a 26-yard touchdown run by McNeal to take a 14-0 lead.
The University offense struggled to execute against the Venice defense throughout the first half and was forced to punt in each of its drives.
McNeal added his second touchdown of the game with 4:45 remaining in the second quarter, when he ran 54 yards up the sideline. The Gondos then took a 27-0 lead into halftime after Ragland, who finished six-of-nine passing for 161 yards and three touchdowns in the game, connected with Johnson for a 65-yard touchdown.
Ragland continued the momentum at the start of the second half when he threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior Que Sean Gregory, who dodged defenders on his way to the end zone.
The troubles did not go away for University early in the second half, as Venice senior Raymond Gordon recovered a fumble at the University 12-yard line. The play set up yet another Venice touchdown on a 12-yard run by senior Marcus Hill for a 41-0 lead at 9:38 in the third quarter.
While the Wildcats struggled to capitalize on offense throughout the game, they wouldn’t let the game end without getting at least one touchdown in the final seconds.
Senior quarterback Adam Clark put the Wildcats on the scoreboard with just four seconds remaining when he connected with senior wide receiver Lamont Dupree for a 20-yard touchdown. University then added a two-point conversion to close out the game at 41-8.
Senior running back Trayon Harris led University with nine carries for 66 yards rushing in the game.
With just two league games remaining, including one against Fairfax High School, which is also undefeated in league play, the Gondos are pleased with the direction they are heading, McNeal said.
“We’re looking good and everyone’s healthy,” he said.
Venice will next face host Palisades High at 7 p.m. Friday, November 2nd.