The logic in playing a brutally tough nonleague schedule grew more and more evident each play for the Venice High football team Friday night. The Gondos pulled away in the second half to defeat host L.A. Fairfax 45-21 at Belmont High, bringing an end to their four-game losing streak and moving them one game closer to their 10th straight Western League title.
“We just needed a win man--it didn’t matter who we played, we just needed to win," Venice Coach Angelo Gasca said. "We needed it mostly for our confidence, and I think we can carry that into the next few weeks.”
Venice players could not have asked for a better start than the one sophomore Tayon Blockmon provided when he ran back the short opening kickoff for a score, giving the Gondos a 7-0 lead just seconds into the game.
However, Fairfax (3-3) responded immediately, tying the game 7-7, and it appeared that a shootout was developing. Both defenses started to buckle down, though, and there was no scoring for the remainder of the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, Venice's star receiver Gabe Marks showed off his talent, scorching Fairfax for an 85-yard touchdown run to give Venice a 14-7 lead.
“Man, he’s such a special talent--he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Gasca said of Marks. “He’s destined for great things, whatever he ends up doing. He’s going to be great.”
The Gondos' lead was short-lived, however, as Fairfax returned the ensuing kickoff for a game-tying touchdown. Venice responded on its next possession, capping off an impressive drive with a quarterback sneak by sophomore Alex Diamont to again take the lead, 21-14.
Fairfax was driving to tie the game once more when Gondos junior linebacker Chetoi Doyle came up with a big interception.
“We had a couple of linebacker interceptions, which was fantastic," Gasca said. "Anytime you get plays like that, your defense is playing great.”
The Gondos (2-4) wanted to capitalize on the turnover and, not surprisingly, they turned to Marks, who delivered by catching a slant pass and dragging four Fairfax defenders with him on his way to a 40-yard touchdown that gave Venice some breathing room, 28-14, at halftime.
“That play is what hitting the weight room does for you," said Marks, who is headed for Southern Methodist University. "I just felt the power and I knew I wasn’t going down. We needed a big play and I knew I had to step up.”
The teams traded three-and-outs to begin the third quarter, but the Lions cut their deficit in half on their second possession of the third quarter. Venice went three-and-out again, but its defense held and when the offense took the field again, Lamar Moody took over. He dove for the corner of the end zone to put Venice ahead 35-21 early in the fourth quarter.
The Gondos' defense continued to play strong, forcing another stop. Kicker McLean Emmanuel tacked on a 36-yard field goal, then linebacker Jahret Hood put the game away with an interception return for a touchdown.
“They [Fairfax] were tough tonight," Gasca said. "They don’t go away. They're talented and well coached. This was a great win for us.”
The win moved Venice one victory closer to .500 and the Gondos will try to win back-to-back games for the first time this year when they tackle Westchester next week in the first of three straight home games. Venice players will celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness by wearing pink and the school will be raising money for Breast Cancer Research.
Score by Quarters
Records: Venice 2-4, 1-0; Fairfax 3-3, 0-1.