Almost nothing has been able to slow the Venice High football team this season as it’s rolled over several opponents in an undefeated start.
Despite missing Da’Marion Escort from last week’s game against Manatee due to a hip pointer injury, the Indians didn’t struggle without their star running back.
Alvin Johnson ran for over 100 yards and four touchdowns as Venice (6-0) crushed Manatee, 41-8, at Powell-Davis Stadium. In the process, the Indians maintained their No. 1 ranking in the FHSAA RPI and rose to No. 2 in FL in the MaxPreps rankings.
“Alvin played great,” Venice coach John Peacock said. “If DJ can go, that would be great. If not, we feel great about Alvin. He’s definitely going to continue to see the field regardless, though.”
This week, Venice will have a chance to earn another district win as the Gulf Coast Sharks (3-3) come to play the Indians at 7:30 p.m.
If the Indians win they will be one game away — against Riverview at home on Oct. 29 — from playing for the district championship.
Winning against the Sharks, however, should not be taken for granted.
Gulf Coast has beaten Golden Gate, Lakewood Ranch and North Port while taking losses to Naples, Bishop Verot and Palmetto Ridge.
Their offense, led by quarterback Konner Barrett, has scored at least 28 points in five of their six games.
Barrett, a junior, has completed 92-of-154 passes for 1,318 yards with eight touchdowns and seven interceptions while rushing 62 times for 151 yards and six more scores.
“They have a really good quarterback and they’re coached well,” Peacock said of Gulf Coast. “He’s their best player for sure. He’s a really good player, and when you’re playing against a team with a good quarterback, anything can happen.”
Beyond Barrett, running backs Will Pasternak (53 carries for 325 yards, 4 TD) and David Lai (50 carries for 259 yards, 2 TD) have handled almost all of the work in the rushing attack.
While there are four receivers with 11 or more receptions, 6-foot-1 junior Joseph Miller has been the standout with 38 receptions for 578 yards and five touchdowns.
The Sharks have struggled defensively in their three losses, allowing an average of 40 points per game in those matchups.
Though they’ve struggled to get to the opposing quarterback — with just three sacks through six games — the Sharks have forced several turnovers, with five interceptions and 10 fumble recoveries. Senior defensive back Jon Ramsey leads that group with four takeaways including two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Even if Gulf Coast forces multiple turnovers, though, the Indians overcame several turnovers in their wins over Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch — two other district opponents — on the way to blowout victories.
“I think they’ll be a little out-manned like a Lakewood Ranch type of deal, but we have to play well,” Peacock said. “It’s a district game, and that’s big.
“We always want to continue to get better each week in order to win it all. We need to be playing our best when the playoffs start.”
Players to watch: Ryan Browne, Omari Hayes, Austin Bray, Jayshon Platt, Alvin Johnson III, Trenton Kintigh, Damon Wilson II, Myles Weston, Elliot Washington, Desavion Cassaway, Martin Ramos, Logan Ballard
Last meeting: N/A
Prediction: Venice wins 56-7