Minutes before halftime in Friday night’s double-overtime win over Trinity Christian Academy, Venice football coach John Peacock found himself in an unfamiliar spot.
Starting quarterback Nico DallaCosta was ruled out of the game with a concussion after taking the wrong end of a helmet-to-helmet hit and — for the first time in his 12-year coaching career — Peacock was forced to turn to a backup.
In his place, Ryan Overstreet entered the game with a chance to make his mark. Two hours later, the Indians trailed, 49-42, and faced a fourth down and five with the game on the line in double overtime.
“Coach called the play and said, ‘Hey you gotta hit him, alright?’ I’m like, ‘Yes sir,’” Overstreet said.
“The place got kind of quiet and I was so focused in. I stepped back, saw him and tried to throw it back shoulder. Thank God he came down with it.”
Facing adversity is nothing new for the 6-foot-2, 215-pound quarterback. Overstreet is four years into his high school career and on his fourth football team.
After his freshman year at Manatee, the head coach stepped down, and the new one wanted a more mobile quarterback. At Plant City, he was beaten out by Braxton Plunk practically before he stepped foot on campus. Then, at Lakeland Christian he broke his tibia and fibula in his third game as a starter. The injury meant surgery and no sports for six months.
So when he was asked to lead Venice to victory against the seven-time state champion Conquerors on Friday, the challenge paled in comparison to what he’s already been through.
Along with putting Venice in position to win, he finished with 9-of-20 passing for 75 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also added a rushing touchdown.
“I don’t think it was tough because he was prepared,” Venice quarterbacks coach Brian Ryals said. “His maturity and his poise to come out and practice and be the same all the time, I think that prepared him for the moment. He didn’t blink. Not only did he know what to do, he looked like he belonged there.”
Coming off a junior season in which he was the starter until he broke his leg, Overstreet knows how quickly the situation can change. After his season-ending injury, the Lakeland Christian coaching staff told him they were re-opening a quarterback competition. He was told he lost the job on the last day of school this spring.
“We split reps the entire spring,” Overstreet said. “Then the coach called me in and said, ‘Hey, we’re gonna go with the other kid because he’s a little more mobile and fits our offense better.’
“I was kind of shocked. But at this point, I’m so used to adversity it’s almost nothing. I was adamant about not transferring again, but at the end of the day I knew I wasn’t going to get to play.”
With options limited, Overstreet came to Venice, where his father went to school and he knew he could have a chance to compete for the job. Once again, he was beaten out — this time by DallaCosta.
But despite another hurdle to overcome, he hasn’t wavered in his passion or dedication to the job.
“You would think he’s the starter the way he prepares, the way he is in the film room, the way he practices, the way he is with the scout team against the first-team defense,” Ryals said.
“You see nothing about him that says, ‘I’m gonna slack off.’ He’s Mr. Steady.”
Someone who’s loved football since he could walk and talk, Overstreet remains a student of the game. And like any football junkie, you can find him watching college football from dawn to dusk most Saturdays.
After a season lost to injury and three seasons gone with just two starts under his belt, he might get to add a third to his resume. DallaCosta hasn’t been out at practice this week, according to Peacock.
Under concussion protocol, DallaCosta can return to practice and games a week after he stops showing symptoms. However, with Venice’s next game on Sept. 20, that doesn’t leave much time for him to get ready for the Riverview Rams.
Overstreet is the next man up, with what could be one of his last chances to make a name for himself in high school football.
“Sometimes it can be tough to stay motivated, especially with the journey I’ve been through,” he said. “But in the end, I don’t think I would change it because it’s shaped me into who I am. I feel like I can handle almost anything now because I’ve been through a lot on and off the field.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know what His plan for me is, but something good has to come out of all this. What goes down must go up. I’m getting kind of low, but I think it’s finally starting to go up for me.”