His first City Section football title was a long time coming for Angelo Gasca.
The beloved Venice High head coach and former player has been at the helm for 22 years, and he finally got to celebrate a title Friday night after the Gondoliers beat Canoga Park 36-9 in the Division I championship game at Lake Balboa Birmingham High.
Venice had come close several times during Gasca’s 32-year tenure at his alma mater (including 10 as an assistant), perhaps the most haunting setback a 30-20 loss to Carson in the Division I final in 2003. It was the Gondoliers’ only loss that season.
“Yes, it feels pretty good and I’m very happy for everyone who has ever played for us,” Gasca said. “I thought we were an Open team, but COVID slowed us down a lot this season. ... We reached a low point after [losses to] Paramount and Palisades, but once we got healthy we’ve been on a roll.”
Under Gasca, the Gondoliers have been known for All-City quarterbacks such as J.P. Losman, Robbie Blosser, and brothers Luca and Zander Diamont. On Friday, the difference was a potent rushing attack and a swarming defense that bottled up Hunters tailback Kayden Collins, who entered with 2,376 yards and 25 touchdowns this season.
It took Venice (8-3) only two plays to take the lead on Paul Kessler’s 61-yard touchdown pass to Jamier Flowers. After the Hunters went three-and-out and punted, Venice scored on a 59-yard reverse by Rashawn Jackson to make it 14-3.
Venice increased its lead to 22-3 on its first drive of the second half when Robert Lamar capped an 84-yard drive with a three-yard run.
Collins finally broke through for a 44-yard touchdown run up the middle late in the third quarter that pulled Canoga Park (8-5) to within 22-9.
Two plays after Jackson caught a 40-yard pass from Kessler and was knocked out of bounds at the Canoga Park 10, Lamar ran it in from three yards out for his second touchdown to give the Gondoliers a 29-9 lead.
Lamar put the game out of reach when he followed a wall of blockers into the end zone on a five-yard run to make it a 35-point margin.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.