- Tyler Harden
Venice secures 8A State Championship with 35-7 win over Apopka
Photo Credit: @bigcountypreps
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA— The Venice Indians have dominated all season, especially when it matters most, in the playoffs. The Indians, who have not been to a state title game since 2017, looked like they will have a great shot at becoming state champions this season. Venice has rolled through the competition in the 8A playoffs this season, outscoring their opponents by an average of 40 points. Their last remaining test would be the Apopka Blue Darters.
The Blue Darters, led by cornerback and UCF signee, Nikai Martinez, have two losses on the season, both by single-digit points. But Apopka has also played their best football of the season during the playoffs, and the great momentum they had coming into the state title game was undeniable. But Venice put a stop to that momentum, and proved they were the better team.
After Apopka started the game with a three-and-out, Venice got right to work. Quarterback, Ryan Browne, connected with wide receiver, Omari Hayes, and Hayes took the pass for a 60-yard touchdown, giving the Indians a 7-0 lead on their first drive (PAT good). But Apopka caught a break, as the Blue Darters recovered a muffed punt at the Venice 5-yard line. Nathan Jenkins was then able to get in the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7 (PAT good).
Venice punched right back. The Indians’ running game led the offense down the field to the Apopka 22-yard line. Ryan Browne then found Keyon Sears wide open for a 22-yard touchdown, giving Venice a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Both teams displayed their defensive power during the second quarter, but Venice was first to break through. After Apopka quarterback, Andrew McClain, had a pass deflected by defensive end, Damon Wilson, at the Apopka 10-yard line, Wilson caught the pass in the end zone for a touchdown, extending the Indians’ lead to 21-7 (PAT good). After Apopka recovered another fumble from Venice, and took over at the Venice 29-yard line, the first half ended with the score 21-7.
Venice picked up right where they left off to start the second half. After the Indians converted on 4th and 6 from the 50-yard line, Ryan Browne connected with Keyon Sears once again for a 47-yard touchdown (PAT good). The defenses continued to show out, as both teams shared interceptions, and the third quarter ended with Venice in the lead 28-7.
After Apopka punted to Venice to start the fourth quarter, wide receiver, Jayshon Platt caught a 60-yard touchdown pass for the Indians, extending their lead to 35-7 (PAT good). From there, the Indians continued to keep the Blue Darters out of the end zone, while draining the clock in the process. When the time ran out, Venice had won the 8A State Championship with a 35-7 win over Apopka.
Venice ends their season as the 8A State Champions, and with a 14-1 record. The Indians had not won a state championship since 2017. The Apopka Blue Darters end their season with a 12-3 record.