By VINNIE PORTELL

Sports Editor

After three years of sitting behind record-setting quarterback Bryce Carpenter at Venice High, Trevor Hedges finally got his chance to be a starter in 2018.

Hedges transferred to Lemon Bay in the spring of 2018 and took over the reins almost immediately, becoming a go-to leader and the conductor of the Mantas’ offense.

However, the season came and went and Hedges graduated from Lemon Bay without an offer to show for his efforts.

“It was after the season and I didn’t have an offer yet,” he said. “I was about to hang ‘em up.”

Though his senior season didn’t go exactly as planned at Lemon Bay (2-8), Hedges flashed enough talent to catch the attention of the coaching staff at Defiance College (a Division-III school of the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference). He received an offer to play for the Yellow Jackets in June, and signed his letter of intent at Lemon Bay High School on Thursday alongside friends and family.

“It was exciting to hear from them,” Hedges said. “I’m ready for the opportunity. I’ve been working out this summer and throwing with (former Venice tight end) Zach Fryar. I’ve been throwing with him a lot and I’ve been landscaping too, so I’m trying to balance it all.”

Hedges was not only given a chance to keep chasing his dream, but he’ll be put in a position to compete for the starting job right away, he said.

Quarterback Logan Mico led Defiance under center last year, throwing for 1,443 yards on 45.5 percent passing with 10 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. Heading into 2019, Mico and backup Ryan Freeman are no longer listed on the roster.

That leaves the starting job wide open between Hedges and junior quarterback Kage Hayes, who has yet to record any stats with the Yellow Jackets in two seasons.

What Defiance will be getting in Hedges is a mature quarterback who has a good understanding of how to attack the opposition, according to Lemon Bay coach Don Southwell.

“He really has a good knowledge of defensive coverages and what they’re trying to do,” Southwell said. “That will be a good asset for him. I also think he has a lot of upside with his arm. He’s a really talented passer. As he gets more experience and continues to put in the work, I think he’ll do very well at the next level.”

Hedges showed off his arm talent and running ability with Lemon Bay in his senior season, and with 4.64 40-yard dash speed — according to his Hudl profile — he adds versatility at the quarterback position that Defiance didn’t have in 2018.

The Lemon Bay graduate also showcased his toughness throughout his senior campaign, playing through a dislocated toe that he suffered in the first week of the season.

“He had some bad luck there in our very first game,” Southwell said. “It would have been really easy as a senior transfer to just say, ‘Oh, I don’t have a whole lot invested here.’ And just change his mindset at that point, but he didn’t.

“He really played through some significant pain all year and gutted it out for us. I appreciated that, and it really showed the type of kid he is.”

Hedges will have a quick turnaround from his signing day as he leaves for Defiance, Ohio on Aug. 10 and begins the next step in his life.

He plans on majoring in sports management with hope of becoming an agent one day. But first and foremost on his mind is having the opportunity to keep chasing his dream of playing football.

“The season didn’t go the way we wanted, but we fought as a team and came together as a whole,” Hedges said. “I feel like I matured a lot more than I would have if I stayed at Venice. I became a better person and a better man because of this season.

“I’m really excited for this. I’m ready to get going.”

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