If there was ever a place where the Venice High School football team could turn its season around, it was in the Western League.
The league seems to be where the Gondoliers feel the most comfortable because it’s the place where they have captured a championship the past few seasons.
So when the Gondoliers, who opened this season with five consecutive losses, were looking for a place to turn things around, they knew they could count on the Western League to do just that. It was again business as usual in league play for Venice, which cruised to another league title this year by going undefeated against five league opponents.
The team secured the league crown and a 5-5 regular season record after a 24-12 victory over host Westchester High School Friday, November 14th. Venice coach Angelo Gasca called his team’s transformation this season one of the highlights he has experienced as a coach.
“It’s an incredible turn of events to go from the kind of team we were to the kind of team we are now,” Gasca said. “It’s pretty memorable.”
Venice senior J.R. McConico echoed his coach’s sentiments about the turnaround, saying the team worked together to achieve it.
“It feels great,” said McConico, who scored two touchdowns against the Westchester Comets. “Our team came together and we became one.”
Gasca attributed the change of path to the players’ determination to make up for the early part of the season.
“The guys believed and decided they weren’t going to get down,” he said.
The Comets (3-7, 2-4) didn’t make it an easy route for Venice, however. Westchester went ahead 6-0 early in the game when senior defensive end Dawan Marzett intercepted a pass by Venice quarterback Alfonso Medina in the opening drive and returned it 22 yards for a touchdown.
Westchester coach Adrian Ivory said the Comets were looking to be competitive against Venice and they had to overcome some injuries to key players.
“We just wanted to play well and compete,” Ivory said.
McConico, who finished with 16 carries for 125 yards rushing, gave Venice its first touchdown at 7:35 in the first quarter on a four-yard run.
Senior Raymond Cleveland intercepted another Medina pass at the end of the quarter but the Comets were unable to capitalize.
The Gondos took advantage and extended their lead to 10-6 at halftime after a 25-yard field goal kick by Angel Quintero.
In Venice’s opening drive of the second half McConico scored his second touchdown on a three-yard run to give the Gondoliers a 17-6 lead.
But Westchester wouldn’t go away that easily, as senior quarterback Christopher Jacobs broke through the Venice defense for a long 83-yard touchdown run, cutting the deficit to 17-12 late in the third quarter. Jacobs finished with ten carries for 115 yards rushing in the game.
“It was two tough teams playing each other,” Gasca said of the challenge posed by Westchester. “We just grinded it out.”
The Comet quarterback tried to put together other scoring drives in the final quarter but he ran into trouble against the Venice defense.
The Gondos closed out the victory for another league title after Medina connected with Teondray Caldwell for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 3:33 remaining in the game. Medina finished with 94 yards passing in the game and running back Aaron Jones added 62 yards rushing on 14 carries for Venice.
As the leaders of the Western League, the Gondoliers earned a spot in the City Section Championship Division playoffs and a meeting with their playoff nemesis, Carson High School. The first round battle is scheduled at Venice at 7 p.m. Thursday, November 20th.
While Venice is not entering the post season with a winning record, McConico said his team hopes “the train keeps rolling” with its league momentum.
“In the city playoffs anything can happen,” Gasca noted. “We’ll take our chances and see what happens.”