As they entered the part of the season they’ve been waiting for, the Venice High School Gondoliers wanted to keep things consistent.
Consistency paid off for Venice throughout Western League play this season, as the Gondoliers cruised to the league championship with an undefeated league record.
So, when the playoffs began for the Los Angeles City Section Championship, the title that Venice truly desires, the Gondoliers wanted to make sure they continued along the same path.
“We just want to keep playing as we’ve been playing,” Venice senior quarterback Richard Ragland said of his team’s game plan for the city playoffs.
The third-seeded Gondos (10-1) had no problems with consistency in the first-round playoff game against visiting 14th-seeded Locke High School (3-8) Thursday, November 15th, as they took an early lead on the way to a convincing 38-14 victory.
The win set up a second-round match-up at home against Dorsey High School, which was scheduled Wednesday, November 21st. The first round of the city playoffs have been no big deal for Venice the past few seasons, but getting past the second round has been a different story.
Last season, the Gondos were narrowly defeated by San Pedro High School when they were stopped on a two-point conversion attempt. Asked what the Gondos need to do this time, Venice coach Angelo Gasca reiterated what his senior quarterback said about consistency:
“The real key is to play the way we’ve been playing.”
While the Gondos have had their eyes on the city crown from the beginning of the season, they wanted to make sure that they didn’t look too far ahead in the first playoff game versus Locke.
“We didn’t want to take them lightly,” said Ragland, who finished 15-of-25 for 202 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Gasca added, “This year, we’ve been trying to force the team to play each play and each game without thinking ahead.
“We wanted to come out early and take control of the game and I think we did.”
The Gondos got off to a slower start than usual, having to settle for a 25-yard field goal by senior Felipe Ortiz in their first drive of the game.
Venice then lost a fumble in the next drive, but it wasn’t long before the Gondoliers would get warmed up. They went ahead 10-0 with two minutes left in the first quarter, when Ragland threw a ten-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Jerry Johnson.
Early in the second quarter, Venice was about to attempt another field goal, when the Locke Saints picked up an offside penalty. The mistake gave the Gondos a second chance, and this time they converted with a five-yard touchdown run by senior running back Curtis McNeal.
Locke junior quarterback LaMonta Green helped bring his team down the field in the Saints’ first drive of the second quarter. Running back Artkiest Jones capped off the drive with a ten-yard touchdown run to cut the Venice lead to 17-6 at 4:31 in the second quarter.
But Venice went back into control after capitalizing on a poor punt by Locke to jump ahead 24-6 on a 12-yard touchdown run by McNeal, who finished with 14 carries for 158 yards.
Ragland connected with Johnson for another 43-yard touchdown in the final seconds of the half to give his team a comfortable 31-6 halftime lead.
The Saints continued to struggle early in the second half, as Green threw a pass that was intercepted by McNeal. The defensive play led to another score for Venice on a 15-yard run by Ragland, putting the Gondos ahead 38-6.
It was a nice cushion for Venice to close out for the victory, despite another touchdown by Locke on a 45-yard fumble return by Kilivern Cooper. Green led the Saints by finishing 12-of-28 passing for 97 yards.