At the end, it came down to a gamble.
Venice quarterback Ryan Overstreet found Malachi Wideman on fourth down and five on the left sideline of the end zone to bring the Venice football team to within one point of Trinity Christian Academy in double overtime on Friday night at Conquerors Stadium in Jacksonville.
Then, Indians coach John Peacock took his chance — going to running back Brian Taylor, who made a defender miss and plowed straight in for the two-point conversion and the the 50-49 win.
A game that came about when Venice’s original Week 3 game with Vero Beach was canceled due to Hurricane Dorian, the back-and-forth affair could wind up being one of the best on both teams’ schedules this year.
Venice (2-1) had allowed two touchdowns to Conquerors running back Kyjuan Herndon on the first play in each overtime period, necessitating the desire to end the game on offense.
But the overtime touchdowns were just the icing on the cake for Herndon, who got off to a slow start (32 first-half yards), but followed up with a big second-half (180 yards) including an 85-yard touchdown run.
Like overtime, the second-half was something of a heavyweight bout, with the two teams combining for 42 points.
Though the Indians led, 21-7 at halftime, the Conquerors took advantage of several big plays from quarterback Jacory Jordan to receiver Marcus Burke (6 catches for 220 yards). Most of their damage was done in the fourth quarter, including touchdowns of 34 and 99 yards, the latter of which gave Trinity Christian a 35-28 with 6:04 to go.
Not only did Venice have to come back from multiple fourth quarter Conquerors touchdowns, but the absence of several key players as well. Starting quarterback Nico DallaCosta suffered a helmet-to-helmet blow in the second quarter and didn’t return to the game. Receiver Malachi Wideman sat out the entire first quarter with no apparent injury. Receiver Myles Weston and cornerback Steffan Johnson didn’t suit up for the game.
To counter Trinity Christian’s second-half surge, Venice answered through its ground game which included 273 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns — one from Taylor and one from Escort — to keep the game tied.
Despite Venice answering every punch the Conquerors threw, it nearly wasn’t enough.
The Conquerors drove all the way down to the Venice 10-yard line with just 10 seconds to go, but an illegal grounding penalty on Jordan, who spiked the ball in shotgun formation, set the ball back to the 15.
The 32-yard field goal attempt for the game sailed about a foot wide left of the goal post, allowing the win to stay within reach for Venice to take that final chance.