Venice High School football coach Angelo Gasca has not wavered in setting his team’s sights on a Los Angeles City Section Championship for yet another season.
It’s a new season and a different team, but the expectations for the Venice High Gondoliers remain the same — add another Western League Championship and capture the school’s first City Championship.
Venice will open the new season against a familiar first-game opponent, host Carson High, at 7 p.m. Friday, September 8th.
The Gondoliers, who finished with a 9-3 overall record last season, continued their reign over the league by earning a co-league championship with Fairfax High School.
But they fell short in their season-long goal of winning the city title by losing to Crenshaw High in the second round of the city playoffs.
Gasca acknowledges some substantial losses on the roster, including Kenny Ashley, Jonas Mouton and Ansley Clevil, who all signed with Division I programs, but said this year’s team is “bigger, faster and stronger.”
“We have a lot of overall team speed and size,” Gasca said.
There are some quality players coming back this season and the team has as good a chance as any to bring a city crown to Venice, he said.
“We won’t be pleased until we finally win a city championship,” Gasca said. “It’s been our goal and I feel that we definitely have a good enough team this year to make a run.
“We have a pretty good group of guys returning.”
Six sophomore players started on last season’s squad and all are returning, including quarterback Richard Ragland, who is expected to lead the Gondo offense.
“When you have a quarterback returning it kind of solidifies your offense,” Gasca said.
The Gondos will look to junior Curtis McNeal to take over at running back, a key position for the Venice offense last season with Ashley at the helm.
Juniors Queshawn Gregory, James Hood and Jerry Johnson are expected to contribute at wide receiver. Some other returning players on offense are junior offensive tackle Rueben Hasani and senior center Rogelio Sedeno.
Players who are expected to step up on defense include junior defensive tackle Gerold Blockman, linebackers Raymond Gordon and Kevin Suruki, defensive backs Shamar Thornton and Jonathan Brasfield and junior safety Naeem Forrester.
Gasca said his players have worked hard in the weight room over the summer to enhance their fitness and prepare for the upcoming season.
This year Venice will focus on improving its special team play and tackling, as well as passing the football down the field more, the coach said. He also expects the team to play a more attack-style defense.
The Gondos will begin the season with the same first three opponents as last year, Carson, Loyola and rival Santa Monica high schools.
Venice will then face an anticipated match-up at home with Oaks Christian High School of Westlake Village in a televised game on ESPN Thursday, September 28th. The final non-league game will be against host Banning High Friday, October 6th.
“We have a tough preseason schedule that will prepare us for the league and the city championship tourney,” Gasca said. “That schedule puts us in a position to be a better team at the end.”