Football State Runner-Ups

In the state’s largest classification, everything came down to Apopka and Venice for the 2021 FHSAA Class 8A State Championship to cap off the season. The preseason number 1 ranked team Venice Indians retained their predicted ranking after beating the Blue Darters 35-7 to obtain their third state title in school history and their first since 2017.

Coming into the game, both teams were on fire, with Apopka having a record of 12-2 and Venice being 13-1. The score predictions for this game varied as Apopka is led by their lockdown defense, whereas Venice is mainly known for their high-powered offense. When it came time for the game, both teams met on December 18th, 2021 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The attendance for this highly anticipated matchup was a little over 5000, with fans from both sides making the multi-hour drive to support their teams.

About an hour before kickoff.

The Venice Indians put on a show on the offensive end with 414 total yards and 4 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Ryan Browne played an almost perfect game going 18-21 with 255 passing yards and four touchdowns. Jayshon Platt led the receivers with 7 receptions for 108 yards and one touchdown. Keyon Sears had 2 receptions for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns and Omari Hayes had 8 for 83 and a touchdown. Venice’s leading rusher was Damarion Escort who ran 20 times for 108 yards. These were only a couple of the key players for the Indians.

As for Apopka, it was a rough outing on both sides of the ball. Going into the game, Apopka’s star-studded defense only gave up seven points a game. The offense had scored at least 21 points in all of their playoff games leading up to this contest. Apopka was only able to cross the goal line one time with a rushing touchdown from junior Zeldrick Roberts. Venice’s defense held junior running back Keyondray Jones to only 67 yards on 14 carries and Andrew McClain went 1-8 passing with 2 interceptions.

One of these interceptions was a very controversial call amongst fans in attendance and across the state. With two minutes left in the first half, Andrew McClain threw a pass that was tipped by Venice’s Damon Wilson who then caught it in the end zone for what was called a touchdown. The controversy came because people believe it should’ve been called an incomplete pass, because he only had possession for a split second before the ball was knocked out of his hands. Players like Andrew McClain himself, along with Nikai Martinez and Josiah Robinson, believe that this moment should’ve been called the other way, and it completely altered the course of the game as they had a lot of momentum up until then.

Although our boys in blue were not able to bring home the big trophy, we still can’t discredit anything they did leading up to that point. They finished the season with a 12-3 record, averaged around 24 points per game, and held opposing teams to under 10 points a game. The coach’s message to his players, which can also be applied to anybody, is to keep pushing, stay focused, and believe in yourself.

Fans across the city are excited to see what next year’s football season has in store for us.