Venice High School senior running back Kenny Ashley knew that if he made a statement early in the season-opening game against Carson High School Friday, September 9th, the Venice Gondoliers would be on their way to victory.
Ashley did just that, as he sprinted through the middle of the field for a 66-yard touchdown run in the middle of the first quarter, and Venice did come out the winner in a 35-14 non-league victory at home over Carson.
“I knew that if I set the tone, then that’s all we would need,” said Ashley, who finished with 15 carries for 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
“That’s all we needed and we went from there,” he said.
The Gondoliers (1-0) played with a vengeance from the start in battling Carson (0-1), a team that has beaten Venice the past two seasons, including in the 2003 Los Angeles City Section Championship.
Ashley and Venice coach Angelo Gasca were quick to express their joy at finally getting revenge against Carson.
“We proved a lot tonight and we played hard with a sophomore quarterback (Richard Ragland),” Ashley said. “This is a good victory for us.”
“It’s always huge to play against Carson and it makes your program better,” Gasca said. “To come out victorious is like ice cream on the cake.”
Venice wasted no time proving it was ready to dethrone Carson, as the Gondos scored four touchdowns before Carson even got on the scoreboard.
In Venice’s second drive of the game, the Gondos continued the offensive spark set by Ashley’s first touchdown with a 36-yard touchdown pass by Ragland to senior wide receiver Jonas Mouton for a 13-0 score to end the first quarter.
Carson faced trouble against the Venice defense from the start. The struggle continued early in the second quarter when Venice senior linebacker Chris Lewis picked up a Carson fumble and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.
Ragland, who finished nine-of-18 for 83 yards passing, converted a two-point conversion pass to senior Jerome Lowe for a 21-0 Venice lead.
Carson experienced more trouble after an offside penalty on a fourth-down play for Venice that gave the Gondoliers a first down.
Ashley then punished the Carson defense for the mistake when he plowed through the middle of the field and left Carson players behind in a 57-yard touchdown run that put Venice comfortably ahead 28-0.
The Carson Colts had seen enough and on the first play in their next drive, they picked up their first score off a long 80-yard touchdown pass by senior quarterback Anthony Lewis to junior Artis Moore.
But Venice went into halftime with a 28-7 lead, which Ashley said was due in large part to the team committing no mistakes or turnovers.
“It was just fun to jump out and relax and play,” Gasca said of his team’s halftime lead.
The Venice defense continued its aggressive attack throughout the third quarter and kept Carson scoreless, but the Colts returned the pressure and held Venice scoreless going in to the fourth quarter.
Carson couldn’t stop Venice for long, as Ashley completed the drive early in the fourth quarter on a two-yard run for his third touchdown of the night and a 35-7 score.
Carson then drove 78 yards in its next drive to the Venice two-yard line, but the Gondolier defense denied any scoring attempt and contained Carson on fourth down.
But the Colts were still not done and managed to pick up their second touchdown with 2:38 left in the game after a 13-yard run by junior running back Steve Boyd, who finished with 15 carries for 106 yards rushing.
Venice had a big night with the performance of its senior players, but Gasca said the team expects the seniors to lead the way, especially Ashley, who helped get the team off to a strong start.
“Tonight was Kenny’s night,” Gasca said.