By the end of the second quarter, Venice's biggest challenge was not reaching the end zone but staying out of it.
With a 45-point lead over Los Angeles Locke in a City Section Division I first-round playoff game Friday night, the host Gondoliers took a knee deep in Saints territory on the final play of the first half.
Venice made several more displays of good sportsmanship in the second half of its 66-0 victory. The Gondoliers used scores of junior varsity players who had been promoted for the playoffs and received an assist from officials who mandated a running clock.
"I did everything I could to hold the score down," Venice Coach Angelo Gasca said. "It wasn't a pretty game."
The third-seeded Gondoliers (7-4) will play host to sixth-seeded San Pedro (8-3) next Friday. The Pirates defeated Westchester, 22-6, in the first round.
Half of Venice quarterback Dean Sarabia's eight passes went for touchdowns, the junior completing seven of eight passes for four touchdowns and 202 yards.
Although Sarabia was still throwing long passes in the second quarter with his team comfortably ahead, Gasca said he was trying to find a balance between keeping his team sharp and not embarrassing injury-plagued Locke (5-6).
Saints Coach Wayne Crawford was satisfied that Gasca decided to have Sarabia take a knee on the final play of the second quarter after Venice had reached the Saints' 24-yard line.
"He could have scored another one," Crawford said, "so basically he was saying, 'We're not trying to run it up.'"
Venice scored on each of its five first-half possessions and converted two Locke turnovers into touchdowns. Gondoliers running back Teondray Caldwell, playing in only his second game since suffering a high ankle sprain against West Covina on Sept. 10, had 56 yards and a touchdown in six carries.
"If we can keep him healthy," Gasca said of Caldwell, a two-way standout who also plays defensive back, "we have a chance to play with the teams that are left in the tournament."
Gasca said managing blowout situations in the postseason can be tricky. In 2003, his team was soundly defeating Sylmar in the third quarter of a semifinal playoff game when he said it lost its edge.
"We started emptying the bench and celebrating the fact that we were going to the Coliseum," Gasca said, "and never got it going again."
The following week, Venice lost in the championship to Carson.
"So I'm aware of that and I'm trying to coach to that," Gasca said of trying to keep his team focused. "But I'm also trying to do the right thing."