Friday evening, the non-starters of the Venice football team got to make their first impression on the coaching staff in the 2019 season.
In the Green and White inter-squad game featuring the junior varsity (Green) team and the second and third stringers of the varsity (White) team, players had their first chance to play in front of a crowd at Powell-Davis Stadium since last fall.
It went the way just about anyone could predict, with the White team dominating the Green team all game until junior varsity quarterback Nick Burke ran in a score from two yards out to get his team on the board in a 36-6 loss.
“We saw a lot of good things. I was impressed with the JV team,” Venice coach John Peacock said. “The way they played and competed. I thought they held their own. We did some good things, and it was good to get some game reps in for guys who haven’t really been on varsity in certain types of situations.”
Quarterback battleAround this time last year, rising-senior Nico DallaCosta thought he had as good a shot as anyone to fill the void at quarterback from school record-holder Bryce Carpenter in his junior season.
But then came Hayden Wolff.
Now a quarterback for Old Dominion University, Wolff transferred to Venice from Lemon Bay High last spring — becoming an Indian for his senior season.
Though Wolff, a pocket passer, didn’t necessarily fit into the dual-threat system that Venice has cultivated over the years, the coaching staff made it work so well that the Indians reached the state semifinals.
However, DallaCosta also proved his worth last season as he rushed for 495 yards and 13 touchdowns on just 65 carries. When things got out of hand in the state semifinal loss to St. Thomas Aquinas, DallaCosta made it tough on the Raiders as he reeled off 49 rushing yards and a touchdown toward the end of the game.
So, with Wolff now departed for college, it appeared as though the job was all but DallaCosta’s to lose coming into this spring.
Competition to DallaCostaHowever, senior quarterback Gabe Weldon recently transferred to Venice from Middleton High (Tampa) and rising-sophomore Carson Smith has impressed coaches early in the spring.
Both played in Friday’s scrimmage and had their moments.
Smith ran well with the ball, picking up chunk yards at will — including a four-yard carry for a touchdown in the third quarter.
However, Smith also had two near-interceptions before finally getting picked off by Michael Peavley.
Weldon had each of his three drives end in scores, with the first coming on a 42-yard pass down the right sideline to James Blem. On the second drive, Weldon showed off his arm again with an 11-yard pass over the middle to Jacob Papatonkis for a score.
The senior transfer also showed off his mobility — carrying the ball over 10 yards four times including a 60-yard scamper for a score in which he beat the entire defense.
“He did well,” Peacock said of Weldon. “He did everything we asked him to do. He’s trying to get a grasp of the offense, and he did a good job of it tonight. He had some nice runs, some good throws. He ran the offense well. No major pre-snap penalties or anything, so that’s good.”
The Indians play in a scrimmage at North Fort Myers High School this morning, and then conclude the spring with a spring game at Lakeland on Thursday.
All three quarterbacks: DallaCosta, Weldon and Smith are expected to get reps in today’s scrimmage at North Fort Myers.
“I just try to focus on what I can do and what I can control,” Weldon said. “I try not to worry about anything else. I know at the end of the day, all I can do is go out there and try my best. Hopefully, my best is what they need.”