“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a saying that’s often applied to winning sports teams. If a team is having success, why change anything?
But Venice football coach John Peacock and his coaching staff don’t think like most people.
Even with Venice winning every game after Week 1 and averaging 44.1 points per game through the regular season, Peacock still wasn’t satisfied with the offense.
So, the Indians have begun using experienced players in new roles, and the results have been more than they could have ever hoped for. Most notably, Peacock has given increased roles to backup running back Mike Trapani, backup quarterback Nico DallaCosta and safety/receiver/kick returner Noah Carr.
In last week’s 7A Region-3 semifinal game against Braden River, that trio scored all four of Venice’s touchdowns.
DallaCosta capped off Venice’s first drive with an 8-yard rushing score. Carr returned an interception for 85 yards the next drive. Trapani ran in a 14-yard touchdown later that quarter, and finally, Carr finished the scoring by catching a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Hayden Wolff.
“If you look at the first part of the season, they were non-existent in the offense,” Peacock said. “They’ve done a really good job of trusting the process and getting better.
“Obviously the coaches have taken note of it and we trust them now. It’s a testament to both their position coaches and themselves.”
Along with providing fresh legs for the starters in front of them, these new offensive weapons have kept opposing defenses guessing as to where the ball is going to go.
Trapani, a senior running back, has refined his speed and athleticism on the Venice Track and Field team — even making it to the state tournament last year.
But Trapani brings more than just quickness, as he’s scored touchdowns in each of the Indians’ playoff games with bruising runs through the middle of the offense. Though his time as an Indian is almost done, he’s making the most of these last few weeks — finally an important cog in the offense.
“It feels pretty good. I kind of do whatever I have to do for the team,” Trapani said on his increased role. “Coming in on third down, coming in when Brandon (Gregory) is tired to give him a break. I’ll do whatever I can to help the team out.”
Trapani, who recently had his first-ever 100 yard game, has rushed for 429 yards on 61 carries and six touchdowns.
DallaCosta has also been a threat out of the backfield for Venice.
Stuck behind Wolff, who transferred from Lemon Bay to Venice last spring, DallaCosta was initially discouraged at his chances to make an impact in 2018.
“He came in during spring and I was kind of bummed, like I really wasn’t gonna play,” DallaCosta said. “But I knew I have some athleticism and hopefully they could find a spot for me on the field.”
“I think I showed effort and intensity in practice. Coach Peacock always has some words for us and it gets us riled up, like we need to put up what he needs us to. It’s all family here, and you want to produce for your family.”
The junior quarterback has more than proven he belongs, rushing for 419 yards and 11 touchdowns on just 53 carries this season.
One of the most noticeable changes last Friday night was Carr’s new role as a receiver.
The senior safety has already proven his worth in the defensive secondary with several interceptions and bone-crushing hits, but his inclusion on offense has truly showcased his versatility.
In a matter of weeks, Carr has turned just a few offensive series into the fourth most receiving yards on the team (8 catches for 223 yards) and he caught his first offensive touchdown of the season last week.
“I just want to do whatever I can to help our team win,” Carr said. “It doesn’t matter where I’m playing, I want to do whatever I can to win.”
Though Venice didn’t necessarily need anyone to step up on offense, the difference on the field with Trapani, DallaCosta and Carr has been undeniable. Going forward, it could be all the Indians need to repeat as state champions.
“It’s been huge,” Peacock said of his new offensive weapons. “They’ve been making plays. It seems every week, each time you turn around, one of them is making a big play.
“It’s them coming out to practice every day and working to get better. And the other part is for their coach to recognize it. A lot of times you get yourself in a rut sometimes as a coach where you say, ‘Hey we’ve got our starter here and this is what we’re gonna do.’ But it takes someone with a little bit of foresight to say, ‘Hey, this guy’s been doing good things at practice and we should give him a shot.’”