Sometimes, all you need is a lucky break.
The Venice boys soccer team got just that in the opening minute of the second half against Charlotte, as Tarpons defenders couldn’t clear the ball out of the box and Indians senior Drew Davis poked in the first score of the game.
Three minutes later, Davis took advantage again on a clean look at the top of the box and scored, giving Venice a 2-0 lead it would hold on to for the win in the 4A District-11 quarterfinals at Powell-Davis Stadium.
“All day long I was just like, ‘This isn’t it. This is not gonna be my last game,’” said Davis, whose time as an Indian would have ended with a loss. “So, when I got on the field, especially when I moved up to forward, I just told myself that I had to score.”
A halftime adjustment by the Venice coaching staff brought junior Conner Anderson up from defense into the midfield, and that rotation pushed Davis into the forward position.
The senior quickly proved that decision to be the right one, as his two goals took some life out of the Tarpons attack and were the difference in the game.
“I thought we came off a pretty good first half,” Charlotte coach Greg Winkler said. “Every time we play these guys, there’s been a couple of minutes where we just lost it and they took advantage.
“We dove too much and the guy just walked it in basically. Then, after the first one went in, our heads are down.”
The first half was tightly contested and each team had its chances to score, with Venice barely outshooting Charlotte, 9-8.
Tarpons midfielder James Bluck had a nearly perfect shot off a free kick from about 35 yards out, but Indians goalkeeper Stefan Slavov slapped it away with a well-timed leap toward the top of the goal.
Charlotte had another solid strike from Bluck and a last-minute free kick that had a chance to go in, but that’s the closest the Tarpons would be to scoring for the rest of the night.
The Indians also had their chances in the first half — with three point-blank looks at the goal — but they couldn’t finish the opportunities, either.
However, the second half was a different story.
“Most games we’ve had this year, we’ve been the underdog,” Venice associate head coach Greg Atkin said. “So it’s nice to have Conner in the back for that. But once we got to halftime, we realized that they didn’t have many clear opportunities to score.
“I was already thinking it, but Conner came up to me and said, ‘Coach, come on. Just move me up.’ With Conner on the ball and with Drew’s speed and size, it was only gonna be a matter of time against these guys.”
Once Davis netted his two early goals, the Tarpons couldn’t answer. It took until 24 minutes had passed in the second half before Charlotte recorded its first shot, and there would be just one more shot — off a free kick — until the final whistle.
With the Venice win, Charlotte’s season is officially over at 6-9-2 and the Indians move on to the 4A District-11 semifinals against top-seeded Palmetto on Wednesday night.
Despite two losses to the Tigers already this season, the Indians are feeling good about one more rematch — with the season on the line.
“Their defense, I would say, is pretty weak,” Davis said of why Venice can beat Palmetto. “If we just do a good job playing in the midfield and defending their midfield, then they have no chance.”