The case is strong that Venice has been the best high school football team on the Westside for the last four years.
The Gondoliers have been superbly coached by Angelo Gasca, a one-time Santa Monica College quarterback. They’ve been a Western League and L.A. City Schools power, and they’ve beaten Santa Monica High each of the last four years in non-league games.
Now Gasca is preparing his team for the upcoming season as experts are saying that Venice and defending champion Birmingham are co-favored to win the LA City championship.
A broader list of the City’s highest-regarded teams includes Crenshaw, Carson and Dorsey.
“We have a chance to have our best team ever,” said Gasca, even better than the 2003 team that reached the City championship game before losing.
Of 22 starters, 20 are seniors.
Venice’s most famous player of the recent past is J.P. Losman, now the starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills.
The current team has two standouts who have made their college commitments. Running back Curtis McNeal is headed to USC next season and receiver Jerry Johnson to UCLA.
McNeal is 5-foot-8, 175 and one of the best ball carriers in the City Section. He’s being viewed as a strong candidate to return kicks initially at USC.
In Venice’s 48-23 victory over Santa Monica last season, McNeal ran for 214 yards and scored four touchdowns. He gained 2,080 yards overall on 187 carries, an 11.1 average. He ran for 291 yards against Hamilton and 279 against Loyola. “I met Curtis last season and he’s a very nice young man besides being one of the best high school running backs I’ve seen,” said Santa Monica coach Zach Cuda.
Johnson is 6-foot-3 and described by Gasca as one of the best receivers Venice has had. He’s a big-play guy who averaged 25 yards per catch last season.
UCLA recently announced that 10 high school seniors-to-be made verbal commitments to the Bruins for next season and Johnson was on the list.
Another prominent Gondolier is Richard Ragsdale, who has been the Gondoliers’ quarterback the last three years.
Last season Venice started slowly, losing its opening game to Carson and standing 2-2 after the first month.
Then the team won seven straight games before losing in the playoffs, 27-26, to San Pedro.
Venice will open its season against San Fernando August 30 in a non-league game that will be televised by LA 36.