Seven days after capturing its first City Section football championship, Venice was aiming for another first Friday night win in the CIF regional game.
The gondoliers’ courageous attempt to return was eight yards short as their season ended with a 19-14 defeat to Bakersfield Independence in the CIF 5-AA Regional Division at Venice High, but coach Angelo Gasky had a good year.
“We didn’t lose, we just didn’t have enough time,” he said.
Defender D’Monte Moten intercepted a pass in the home zone as time ran out to seal the Independence victory.
“We had to drive the whole field without timeouts, and we almost made it,” said Gaska, who piloted his alma mater in the City Section I Championship the previous week. “Our defender Paul Kessler came of age tonight. He made some great pressure shots to get us within reach. “
Venice’s challenge (8-4) was to contain the 1,700-yard Falcons rusher Evan Picker and the 1,100-yard rusher Ladon Denmark, and the gondoliers did this by keeping Denmark less than 80 yards away while Picker needed 26 carries. to get 125 yards.
Defense dominated in the first half. Robert Lamar crossed the goal line from two yards to complete a 55-yard run with nine games and put Venice ahead 7-0 with 2:50 to the end of the second quarter.
Independence (9-6) responded to his ensuing attempt by going 64 yards in seven games, scoring against the Danish quarterback’s 12-yard goalkeeper who pulled him even shortly before halftime.
Three games after Rashon Jackson was defeated in a fake punt on the gondoliers’ five-yard line, Denmark ran for their second score to give the Falcons their first lead, but the extra point was blocked. Denmark then scored on a draw at 11 yards, putting the Independence ahead 19-7.
Kessler connected with Jamier Flowers in a 57-yard assist, cutting the gondolier deficit to 19-14 ahead of reaching the fourth quarter.
Venice forced the next race with the Falcons and took the lead in its 28th minute, but Moten knocked out an unsuccessful pass at the Independence 35. Venice held on and took its place on its top three from 3:06 to the end.
It took Venice 10 rallies to reach the Independence eight before Kessler got the ball with three seconds left. Moten’s second interception allowed the Central Section 4 champions to advance into a 5-AA state championship game next Saturday against North Coast Division 5 champion Novato San Marina (13-1).
Venice has lost three of its first four games due to the coronavirus 12 players short. Since returning to full strength, the gondoliers have won seven straight victories.
“We have overcome so much this season and I am really proud of the adults,” Gasca said.