The era of the Venice High School football team’s command of the Western League will continue, even though the Gondoliers have to share the glory this season.
The Gondoliers earned their fourth consecutive league championship with a 36-20 victory at home over the University High School Wildcats Thursday, November 10th.
But while Venice (8-2, 4-1) has had the league title all to itself with an undefeated league record the past three seasons, this year Venice will have company on the trophy.
Fairfax High School (8-2, 4-1) was the first league opponent to defeat Venice in four years this season, and with the Lions’ 28-13 win over Hamilton High, Fairfax won the co-league championship with Venice.
Although the Gondoliers added another league crown under different circumstances this season, Venice coach Angelo Gasca said his team still made a statement with the co-league title.
“It was all we could do,” Gasca said of the co-league crown as a result of the earlier loss to Fairfax. “We put ourselves in the position where that was all we had to play for.”
Venice senior free safety Jonas Mouton, who has played on the team the past two seasons and been an integral part of its success, said this year’s title extends Venice’s football tradition in the league.
“It feels good to come out and be champions of the league,” said Mouton, who had two receptions for 41 yards and two touchdowns against University.
“I’m glad to be a part of it.”
Fairfax and Venice may have tied for the league championship, but the Lions received the higher seed in the Los Angeles City Section Championship Division playoffs.
Venice received the seventh seed and will play at home against tenth seeded Los Angeles Jordan High School at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 17th. Fairfax is the sixth seed in the playoffs.
University (8-2, 3-2) had been undefeated until a narrow 7-6 loss to Fairfax and was in a position to take a co-league title with a victory, but the Wildcats met their match in Venice.
The Gondos held a comfortable 29-6 lead at halftime, which gave them some breathing room when University was able to capitalize on Venice penalties in the second half.
“We got the lead and kind of cruised,” Mouton said of Venice’s first-half advantage.
In University’s second drive of the second half the Wildcats gained 25 yards on Venice penalties alone, including a pass interference and personal foul.
University was able to cut the Venice lead to 29-14 on a three-yard touchdown run by senior running back Aaron Grims and a two-point conversion.
“We enabled them to score on us, but we woke up from that and got at it again,” Mouton said.
Venice took control in its ensuing drive that began with a 25-yard pass by sophomore quarterback Richard Ragland to senior wide receiver Jerome Lowe.
The Gondos completed the drive in the beginning of the fourth quarter when Ragland, who finished seven-of-13 for 121 yards passing, connected with Mouton on a six-yard touchdown pass for a 36-14 lead.
“We were ready to bust loose on offense,” Gasca said.
“We’ve improved so much over the course of a year. If we have the ball we’re going to do damage.”
Another pass interference penalty by Venice in University’s next drive put the ball on the Gondo 15-yard line.
It was from there that University senior quarterback Jason Robinson threw a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Darryl Butcher to cut the deficit to 36-20 with 8:10 remaining in the game.
The Wildcats caught another break when a Venice pass interference penalty on a fourth-and-15 play gave University a first down, but the Venice defense, led by a sack by senior lineman Michael Munoz, prevented the Wildcats from adding to their score.
Venice was able to maintain control of the second half and finish off with a convincing victory thanks to a dominating first-half performance.
The Gondos wasted no time getting on the scoreboard when senior running back Ken Ashley, who finished with 20 carries for 143 yards rushing, bolted 50 yards for a touchdown on only the fourth play of the game.
About four minutes later, Venice added another score when senior defensive back Greg Herd intercepted a Robinson pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown.
The Gondos were forced to punt in the first drive of the second quarter, but they made up for it on defense when Mouton forced a safety, giving Venice a 16-0 lead.
Two touchdowns by Ragland, including a seven-yard run and a 35-yard pass to Mouton, put the Gondos convincingly ahead 29-0 with 4:31 remaining before halftime.
University managed to enter halftime with a score after junior Cedric Hayes, who rushed nine times for 37 yards, ran five yards for a touchdown, but the deficit would prove to be too large for the Wildcats to overcome in the second half.
While the Gondos are pleased that they can add another Western League championship to their list of accomplishments, there is still one title missing that they most definitely will fight for in the playoffs, Gasca said.
“First things first, we’re going to try to get a city championship,” he said.
The Santa Monica High School Vikings football team finished off the Ocean League season in impressive fashion with a 40-14 victory over host Hawthorne High School Thursday, November 10th, but the Vikings came up just short in their bid for a league championship.
The Vikings (8-2, 4-1) secured a second-place finish in the league standings with the convincing victory over defending league champion Hawthorne.
Beverly Hills High School, which defeated Santa Monica 52-36 November 4th, won this season’s league title after a 13-13 tie to Culver City High.
With the second-place finish in the league, Santa Monica earned a spot in the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division IV playoffs.
The Vikings will play at Arroyo Grande High School in the first round of the playoffs at 7:30 p.m. Friday, November 18th.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Katz, who finished nine-of-17 for 185 yards passing, led the Santa Monica offense against Hawthorne after he threw for three touchdowns of 22, 41 and 35 yards and ran for another.
The Westchester High School Comets earned a spot in the Los Angeles City Section Invitational Division playoffs after a dominating 41-7 Western League victory over host Palisades High School Thursday, November 10th.
The Comets (5-5, 2-3) finished in fourth place in the league standings, but earned the 11th seed in the City Invitational Division playoffs.
Westchester will play at sixth-seeded Garfield High School in the first round at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 17th.
The Comets took a 21-7 lead before halftime against Palisades when junior cornerback Khallid Muhammad picked up one of his three interceptions in the game and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.
Senior quarterback Duron Sylvester also stepped up big for Westchester after he finished 16-of-21 for 203 yards passing and two touchdowns.
The St. Bernard High School Vikings fell short in their bid for a spot in the CIF Division X playoffs after a 49-7 loss to Del Rey League champion Crespi High School Friday, November 11th, but the Vikings made improvements from last season.
The Vikings (2-8, 2-3) finished in fourth place in the league standings after the loss to host Crespi.
St. Bernard, which earned league victories over Bosco Tech High and Bishop Montgomery High this season, was able to improve on its 0-10 record from last season when the Vikings finished in last place in the league.
The Vikings were overpowered by Crespi, but they managed to get a score in the fourth quarter when junior running back Jonathan Cormier ran for a one-yard touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan Simpson finished ten-of-19 for 85 yards passing for St. Bernard.
After season-long struggles with injuries to key players, the St. Monica High School Mariners finished the season with a 39-6 loss to Camino Real League champion Verbum Dei High School Saturday, November 12th.
The Mariners (1-9, 0-4) began this season with a 22-20 victory over Bishop Montgomery High School, but they were unable to earn another win after being plagued with injuries throughout the season.