By VINNIE PORTELL
The Venice football team and coach John Peacock want to take their team to the national level of competition, and for about seven minutes against IMG Academy, it looked like they were well on their way.
However, it soon all fell apart as mistakes, missed tackles and penalties led to a 46-7 loss at Powell-Davis Stadium on Friday night.
“I don’t know what the stats were, but I know we had a chance,” Venice coach John Peacock said. “They’re really talented and you have to be dang near perfect, and we were far, far from that. But we’ll get better.
“The reason we played this game is to get ready for a state championship. If we’re not playing these types of opponents, we’re not getting better. We’ll be ready.”
The Indians (0-1) stopped the Ascenders on fourth down on their own side of the field on the first drive of the game, and wasted no time driving down the field to score on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Nico DallaCosta to Malachi Wideman for a 7-0 lead.
The Venice defense then forced a punt on the ensuing drive, but DallaCosta was intercepted for a touchdown by Elias Ricks on the first play of the Indians’ second drive.
“We started hot and did well,” Peacock said. “Then that second series, that was all on me and the coaches. It wasn’t on Nico and it wasn’t on the receiver. (IMG) guessed right. We never got (the momentum) back.”
From there on out, Venice couldn’t get out of its own way as it allowed IMG to score 46 unanswered points.
Running behind a massive offensive line of 300+ pound players, the Ascenders’ three-headed rushing attack ran for 388 yards as wide-open lanes were established all night long.
“We have to be a three-headed monster because nobody knows who our guys are,” IMG coach Kevin Wright said. “We’ve got a young offensive line and two guys over from defense. It was important to establish the run and we were able to make people miss some tackles.”
Though Venice mounted multiple drives into IMG territory, interceptions and turnovers on downs thwarted any possible chances to score.
The Indians couldn’t get their running game going, rushing for just 38 yards on the night. However, the passing game had its moments as Wideman hauled in eight catches for 120 yards and the opening score.
Despite the scoreboard, Venice never backed down — going for it on fourth down several times and running aggressive plays. But the first four drives out of halftime ended without points (a punt, turnover on downs, interception and turnover on downs) and the game quickly slipped away.
A running clock began in the fourth quarter, bringing the game to a merciful end.
“We’re doing things to stay in the game to try and win it,” Peacock said. “With the type of offense we run and the things we like to do, if you don’t get it done, the score can be a lot uglier than if we tried to stay in the game. That’s the nature of the beast.”