The 2019 football season came to an end this past weekend for both the Venice Indians and several of the team’s alumni.
One day after the Indians lost to St. Thomas Aquinas, 42-0, in the state semifinals, the college football regular season wrapped up with its annual rivalry week.
For 2019 Venice High graduate Hayden Wolff, his redshirt freshman season featured a lot of unexpected turns. After overcoming offseason shoulder surgery, he spent much of his season on the sidelines as Old Dominion University (1-11) won just one game and saw its offense fall to last in the nation. Out of options, coach Bobby Wilder turned to Wolff — who threw for 737 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs in three starts. Though Wolff went winless in his three starts, he lost by 7 to Florida International and by 1 to University of Texas San Antonio. Wilder resigned after the 1-11 season, leaving the quarterback’s future a bit uncertain.
At Coastal Carolina (5-7), the Bryce Carpenter to Jaivon Heiligh connection was back on in spurts this season. After setting state records in their time together at Venice, the two linked up for a few touchdowns this season and even broke another record — with Carpenter throwing to Heiligh for a Chanticleers record 12 receptions for 107 yards in a 36-35 win over Troy. Though Carpenter never fully took over as the starting QB, he finished second on the team with 390 rushing yards. Heiligh was the team’s top receiver with 46 receptions for 497 yards and 3 TDs.
After putting in two years of work in practices and on special teams with Syracuse (5-7), tight end Aaron Hackett had his chances to shine his season. Coming into the year with just four career catches, Hackett finished with 23 this year as he caught six touchdowns — the second-most on the team.
Though the football season is over for Wolff, Carpenter, Heiligh and Hackett, it will continue for some other alumni.
Defensive end Alex Hoag played sparingly for Kent State (6-6) in the first half of the season, recording just four tackles through October. However, he became a bigger part of the defense as the season wore on, getting 12 total tackles and defending a pass over the final four games of the season. Hoag and Kent State are projected by ESPN to play in the Camellia Bowl at Cramton Bowl, AL on Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. vs. Georgia State OR in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium, AZ on Dec. 31 at 4:30 p.m. vs. Liberty.
Matt LaRoche never eclipsed 10 carries in a game this season for Georgia Southern (7-5), but he did have a breakout performance in Week 2 against Maine — taking nine carries for 154 yards and a score. His Eagles team is projected by ESPN to play in either the Camellia Bowl at Cramton Bowl, AL on Dec. 21 at 5:30 p.m. vs. Western Michigan OR in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona Bowl at Arizona Stadium, AZ on Dec. 31 at 4:30 p.m. vs. Nevada.
Jarrod Hewitt was a vital part of a Virginia Tech (8-4) team that was ranked No. 24 and would have played in the ACC Championship if it would have beaten Virginia this past weekend. Hewitt finished the year with four sacks and will look to play an even bigger role when he returns for his senior season in 2020. ESPN projects Hewitt and the Hokies to play in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium, NY on Dec. 27 at 3:20 p.m. vs Michigan State OR in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl at Nissan Stadium, TEN on Dec. 30 at 4 p.m. vs. Kentucky.
Though he didn’t accrue any stats this season due to his position, long snapper Enzo Anthony’s Virginia team had the best season of all Venice alums. The Cavaliers went 9-3 and will play No. 3 Clemson for the ACC Championship on Saturday, Dec. 7. As of now, ESPN projects Anthony and Virginia to play in the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, FL on Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. vs. either Alabama or Florida.
2019 Graduating Class
Hayden Wolff — Old Dominion University
Did not play in a 38-22 loss to Charlotte.
Season total: 75-of-129 for 737 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs.
2018 Graduating Class
Bryce Carpenter — Coastal Carolina University
10-of-11 passing for 114 yards and 1 TD. 4 carries for 10 yards in 24-21 win over Texas State.
Season total: 93-of-142 passing for 927 yards, 8 TDs and 2 INTs. 109 carries for 390 yards, 1 TD.
Jaivon Heiligh — Coastal Carolina University
1 catch for 9 yards in 24-21 win over Texas State.
Season total: 46 catches for 497 yards and 3 TDs.
2017 Graduating Class
Aaron Hackett — Syracuse University
2 catches for 11 yards in 39-30 overtime win over Wake Forest.
Season total: 23 catches for 205 yards and 6 TDs.
Matt LaRoche — Georgia Southern University
Did not play in 38-10 win over Georgia State.
Season total: 59 carries for 326 yards, 1 TD. 2 catches for -6 yards. 1 fumble lost.
2016 Graduating Class
Jarrod Hewitt — Virginia Tech
2 total tackles in 39-30 loss to Virginia.
Season total: 27 total tackles, 4 sacks, 1 pass defended.
2015 Graduating Class
Alex Hoag — Kent State University
4 total tackles in 34-26 win over Eastern Michigan.
Season total: 16 total tackles, 1 pass defended.