Down on the football field at Birmingham Charter High School last night, Venice High School head coach Angelo Gasca was the center of attention from his players, alumni, fans, parents and well-wishers.
That was the scene after Venice (8-3) defeated Canoga Park, 36-9, for its first-ever Los Angeles City Section championship.
Gasca been waiting for this shining moment for about 30 years or so. After all, he was a standout quarterback at Venice in his high school years, eventually becoming a successful head coach of a winning program that has sent many players to college.
Led by junior wide receiver Robert Lamar’s three-touchdown performance, Venice led 14-3 at the half, only to increase it to 29-9 after the third quarter to put the game away.
Typically, Gasca’s Venice teams consisted of high scoring teams featuring highly productive Division I quarterbacks and wide receivers.
Under Gasca, his Venice teams are often championship contenders, dominating the Western League during the regular season. However, the bigger and stronger South Bay teams would usher Venice toward the exit door from the playoffs.
But last night, Venice had the right recipe for victory. It used several big plays on offense and defense, blending in a ball-control attack that kept Canoga Park’s potent running attack, led by senior Kayden Collins, off the field.
Venice’s Rashawn Jackson and Jamier Flowers provided Venice’s other touchdowns.
Last week, Collins rushed for more than 400 yards in the semifinal win over Dorsey. Last night, he scored on a 44-yard run that closed the gap to 22-9, but he couldn’t bring the Hunters any closer. He finished with 116 yards on 25 carries for the game and finished the year with 2,400-plus yards.
Lacking a potent passing attack, Canoga Park tried to cobble together a comeback attempt, but the Venice defense rose to the occasion each time. To make matters worse, Canoga Park’s junior running back Dane Reed, the team’s second leading rusher, was injured in the first half and never returned.