At least there was no pepper spray this time around.
San Pedro High football was a mere tantalizing minute or so away from gaining retribution from a dark scene at host Venice, but the Gondoliers' Kaelin Jones would take a sideline screen pass and turn it into a 10-yard touchdown with 40.6 seconds left to shock the Pirates, 27-24 in the CIF-Los Angeles City Section Division I quarterfinals, bitterly ending the Pirates' season at 8-4 overall.
Two years ago, the postgame handshake turned into a wild fracas that ended with 13 San Pedro players and a Venice ball boy getting maced. After Venice (10-2) took a knee to run out the final seconds of the game, the postgame handshake this time around was peaceful and refreshing, although San Pedro was left to ponder what might have been.
Venice would go up 3-0 in the first quarter, but the Pirates would strike back on the first play of the second quarter when senior running back Devon Mitchell would blast up the middle of the Gondolier defense for a 56-yard touchdown that put San Pedro up, 7-3. Then after senior WR/LB Pete Palacios intercepted Venice junior quarterback Alexander Diamont, the Pirates would go up 14-3 on Darrell Santiago's four-yard touchdown run.
It was 14-13 Pirates at the half after Venice scored 10 points to draw closer.
Venice would take a 20-14 lead after driving 80 yards on eight plays, capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by Alijah Lee with 8:49 left in the third quarter, then the Pirates would methodically keep the Gondolier offense off the field for 17 plays before senior kicker Christian Gonzalez's 26-yard field goal with 36.2 seconds remaining ended the drive.
The Pirates were able to force a three-and-out by Venice, and would once again grab control of the game on Santiago's 15-yard touchdown run that put San Pedro ahead, 24-20 with 7:55 remaining in the game.
Amazingly, San Pedro's defense held Venice to two more consecutive three-and-outs, but the offense failed to capitalize. On the third offensive possession of the fourth quarter, San Pedro was poised to finish the Gondoliers off, but a holding penalty stalled the drive, and were forced to punt, giving Venice the ball back with 1:36 left.
From there, Diamont would complete 7-of-8 passes for all 83 yards on the winning drive that started on Venice's 16-yard line, as he picked apart what was surprisingly soft coverage by the San Pedro secondary, which was the cause for Jones' eventual game-winning touchdown.
On the final drive of the game, San Pedro senior quarterback Jimmy Bryant only completed a 15-yard pass to senior running back Jesse Gutierrez out of his five final passes, the last one was picked off by Venice's Dajuan Parham which sealed the deal for the Gondoliers.
Santiago ran for 132 yards on 23 carries for San Pedro, with his two touchdowns giving him a school-career record of 40 touchdown runs in his three-year career as a Pirate. Mitchell ran for 83 yards on six carries and a touchdown for the Pirates, who placed third in the Marine League.
As for the Gondoliers, they survive and advance to the semifinal round, where second-seeded Crenshaw of Los Angeles will await them. The Cougars routed No.7 Dorsey, 56-6 in their quarterfinal contest.