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Venice's Victory Gives Others Hope

September 24, 2003|Eric Stephens | Times Staff Writer

When Coach Angelo Gasca posted the Venice football schedule on a board in the locker room in February, his assistants were taken aback.

The Gondoliers would play Carson to open the season. The next week, they would face Los Angeles Loyola.

"My coaches said, 'What are you doing? Are you crazy?' " Gasca joked Monday afternoon. "I watched [Harbor City] Narbonne play [Loyola] last year, and that's when I said that I wanted to schedule them."

It turned out the fourth-year coach knew what he was doing.

Venice, No. 14 in The Times' Southland rankings, pulled off one of the City Section's biggest intersectional victories in recent years with a 17-13 victory over then-No. 6 Loyola, perennially one of the Southern Section's top programs.

Beating Loyola is normally a chore, and it is a rare feat for a City team. Before Friday night, only two teams -- Carson in 1980 and L.A. Crenshaw in 1999 -- had defeated the Cubs in 13 previous meetings during Steve Grady's 28 years as coach.

Gasca said the victory was a result of seven months of hard work. At worst, the Gondoliers weren't going to be embarrassed by the four-time Southern Section Division I champions.

"In all these games, I really don't think about whether we are going to win or lose," he said. "I worried if we are going to play well. Of course, in the back of your mind, you're thinking, 'We can get these guys.' "

Dorsey Coach Paul Knox said the section's coaches often pull for one another in these intersectional matchups.

"I think everybody has the perception that when one of the better teams in the City Section faces a top Southern Section team, the City Section can't compete," Knox said. "All the City teams kind of band together in support of that team."

Lake Balboa Birmingham Coach Ed Croson, whose team lost close games to Newhall Hart and Sherman Oaks Notre Dame last year en route to a section championship, said Venice's victory is particularly impressive because of what he calls inherent disadvantages for City teams.

This is true "especially early [in the season], because the Southern Section is way ahead because of the extra practice days and the scrimmage [against other teams during Zero Week] they get," said Croson, who also coached at West Hills Chaminade. "They have three teams [freshman-sophomore, junior varsity and varsity] and we have two [freshman-sophomore and varsity]. They're ahead technically. You put Southern Section teams with our rules, and they might find they may not play with the same quality. It's apples and oranges."

Gasca said the victory is a landmark one for Venice.

"I've received a lot of calls from coaches that I'm friends with and respect," he said. "We're going to be better forever by beating a team like Loyola, because our kids now know they can do it."

Can another City team duplicate the feat? Wilmington Banning plays at No. 25 Manhattan Beach Mira Costa on Thursday, and in future weeks, Dorsey plays at No. 16 Chino and Roosevelt plays host to Santa Fe Springs St. Paul.


City top 10: 1. Venice (2-0); 2. Dorsey (2-0); 3. Granada Hills (2-0); 4. Gardena (2-0); 5. Crenshaw (1-1); 6. Palisades (2-0); 7. Birmingham (0-2); 8. Sylmar (1-1); 9. Roosevelt (2-0); 10. Fremont (2-0).

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