Paul Kessler showed why he is one of the best quarterbacks in the City Section on Friday night.
The senior threw for more than 200 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as Venice built a 21-point lead en route to a 60-14 win in a Western League showdown at rival Palisades.
Two of his first-half strikes were to Rashawn Jackson, one a 55-yarder to tie the score 14-14 on the final play of the first quarter and the second on a fade to the end zone from 15 yards out to make it 28-14 midway through the second.
Kessler also connected with Isaiah Atkins on a 39-yard touchdown pass to give the Gondoliers their first lead, 21-14, and found Amir Smith over the middle for a 16-yard strike to increase the lead to 35-14 just before halftime.
“I was confident we’d play well but I expected it to be more like it was at the start but then we took it to a new level,” Venice coach Angelo Gasca said. “The games against San Pedro and [Huntington Beach] Edison really helped toughen us up early in the season. Hopefully now we get an extra week to prepare for the playoffs.”
Palisades scored first on a 45-yard punt return by Amari Yolas, but the Gondoliers answered on a three-yard run by Romeo Signore midway through the first quarter.
Venice drove 80 yards in nine plays to open the second half, scoring on a one-yard plunge by Robert Lamar on fourth and goal.
Palisades quarterback Roman La Scala faked a handoff and scored on a one-yard keeper to put the Dolphins back in front, 14-7, but Venice took command after that.
Venice avenged a 33-13 loss last year and put itself in position to get one of the top three seeds for City Section Open Division playoffs, reserved for the top eight teams. The Gondoliers won their seventh straight, their last loss coming Sept. 1 to San Pedro.
Venice (8-2 overall, 5-0 in league) holds a 30-25-1 edge in a rivalry dating to 1961.
Palisades (7-3, 4-1) had won four straight since suffering back-to-back losses to Cleveland and Brentwood in September.