Venice High made it seven wins in eight games last Friday by defeating Fairfax, 49-33.
The win sets up one of the most anticipated games of the Western League football season — Westchester at Venice Friday night. The Comets, who have struggled in recent years, are a contender now in Ruffin Patterson’s first season as coach.
Venice is carrying on without versatile Jonathon McNeal, who is out with a knee injury. McNeal, arguably Venice’s best player, was scheduled for surgery this week.
In recent weeks he’s taken on the role of another coach, giving tips and encouraging teammates from the sidelines.
“We’re lucky he’s such a good kid,” said head coach Angelo Gasca, “It breaks his heart that he can’t play, but instead of moping he decided to help any way he can.”
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound McNeal is being recruited by Division 1 schools as a linebacker, but he’s performed in a variety of ways for the Gondoliers, including an 85-yard kickoff return against Santa Monica.
In the first four games of the season McNeal caught 20 passes, scored three touchdowns and averaged 12 tackles per contest.
His absence caused Gasca to do some major reshuffling. Junior Frank Murray has blossomed and become a major factor even though he didn’t play football until last summer.
Junior Larry Clark has played well too. He scored two touchdowns against Palisades. And junior Teondray Caldwell is exciting in the open field,
“It’s taken four guys to replace Jon,” said Gasca. “He ran the show on defense.”
Venice is attempting to repeat as league champion and make an impression in the L.A. City Section playoffs.