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Venice Relies on Ellis, Defense for Victory

October 26, 2002|Eric Stephens ;Steve Galluzzo;Mayar Zokaei

With big-play receivers on both sides of him, Venice running back Byron Ellis is often an afterthought in the Gondoliers' high-octane offense. On Friday night, Ellis became the main man in a key Western League game.

Ellis ran for 184 yards in 18 carries and scored two touchdowns for visiting Venice, which took over first place as the only unbeaten team in league with a 20-6 victory over Westchester.

The Gondoliers (6-1, 3-0 in league) won without the fireworks that had helped them average 42 points heading into the game. An overlooked defense also played its part in holding the Comets (5-2, 2-1) without an offensive touchdown.

"In a tough game, you rely on your defense," Venice Coach Angelo Gasca said. "Defense wins championships. Tonight, they played great."

Ellis got going in the first quarter, when he had runs of 14 and 12 yards on a seven-play drive. Then on first and 10 at the Westchester 27, the senior went through a hole on the right side and rambled to a touchdown for a 6-0 lead.

"Usually I get about seven carries a game," he said. "I let it loose as soon as I got the ball. Coach [Gasca] told me to run hard. Once he sees something he likes, he'll go with it."

Westchester tied the score when senior Wallace Hightower blocked a punt deep in Venice territory. Rashard Smith picked up the ball inside the five-yard line and fell into the end zone. Hightower's conversion kick was blocked by B.J. Vickers.

Vickers got loose late in the second quarter. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver made an adjustment on an underthrown pass by Miller, breaking a tackle near the right sideline to complete a 46-yard scoring play and give the Gondoliers a 13-6 lead.

Ellis had another 42-yard run but fumbled the ball away. As the Gondoliers' defense held, he atoned for the mistake with a 41-yard jaunt on third and 30 to break the Comets' spirit. With 2:35 remaining, he finished the drive with a four-yard run on a fake reverse.

Venice got solid games from quarterback Eddie Miller (13 for 21, 174 yards) and Vickers (five catches, 97 yards).

-- Eric Stephens


Franklin 40, Wilson 10 -- Narciso Diaz completed 14 of 20 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns and host Franklin took a big step toward winning its 12th Northern League title in 13 years.

Diaz leads the City Section with 2,291 yards passing and 24 touchdowns. He added 39 yards in six carries and scored on a 14-yard run in the third quarter.

Kevin Hale returned a punt 48 yards for a touchdown with 8:15 to play in the second quarter.

On its next possession, Franklin (6-1, 2-0) drove 86 yards in nine plays, capped by a 10-yard pass from Diaz to Kitt Turner with 24 seconds to play in the first half to build a 28-10 halftime lead.

Adam Viola caught seven passes for 121 yards and a touchdown, Brandon Powers had four receptions for 48 yards and Brandon Torres rushed for 47 yards and two touchdowns in 14 carries for Franklin.

Steven Martinez completed 13 of 21 passes for 108 yards and scored on a one-yard run to give Wilson (4-3, 1-1) a 10-7 lead with 1:01 left in the first quarter.

--Steve Galluzzo


Van Nuys Grant 45, Sun Valley Poly 35 -- Dashawn Smith completed 22 of 39 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns and the host Lancers used two fourth-quarter scores to hold off the upset-minded Parrots in a Sunset Six League game.

Anthony Dickson scored on a 25-yard run on the first play from scrimmage for Grant (5-2, 2-0), but the junior, who came into the game with more than 1,100 yards rushing on the season, sprained his left ankle on his second carry midway through the first quarter and did not return.

The Parrots (4-3, 1-1) capitalized on three first-half Lancer turnovers to score 21 unanswered points, culminated by a seven-yard touchdown run by James Ingram with 7:49 left in the first half.

Grant scored 24 unanswered points, highlighted by two Smith touchdown passes, to take a 31-21 lead with 7:42 left in the third quarter.

Poly led, 35-31, after a 53-yard interception return by Durrell Marzett near the end of the third quarter, but Mark Diaz had three passes intercepted in the fourth quarter, two of which Grant converted into touchdowns.

--Mayar Zokaei

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