A solid matchup is set to take place on Friday night at Venice High.
The Indians (11-0) will play host to East Lake (9-1) in a Class 7A region final.
Venice put away with high-flying Braden River 64-42 last Friday to advance while the Eagles took down visiting Tampa Bay Tech 20-14.
Both teams have been very stingy on defense as East Lake is allowing only 12.6 points per game and the Indians are giving up 11.1 points per game.
Venice owns an edge on offense coming into this one, averaging an impressive 50.4 points per game. East Lake is averaging a solid 30.4 points per game.
Junior quarterback Bryce Carpenter is a true dual-threat quarterback with 2,102 total yards and 30 touchdowns on the season. The Indians offense certainly benefits from having senior back Matthew “Speedy” Laroche and his 2,571 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Junior wideout Jaivon Heiligh has been superb as a pass catcher with 695 yards and eight touchdowns on 45 receptions.
“We can’t look back at what we have done and rely on that,” Carpenter said. “We need to take it one game at a time and focus on every game.”
As for East Lake, this team is predicated off a balanced offensive attack and a fiery defense.
On offense, senior wide receiver Bryce Miller has caught 12 of the 13 touchdowns through the air this season for the Eagles. He has 31 catches for 617 yards.
Coming off the big win over Tampa Bay Tech last week, Miller says he’s expecting a very good game.
“Everyone that makes it to the third round of the playoffs is good,” Miller said. “We are going to keep playing the way we have because we have gotten this far with our game plan.”
In terms of this game, Venice will be playing at home where they are 21-1 over the past three seasons.
“It means a lot to play at home and it is something we have been working towards the whole year,” Carpenter said. “We are excited and can’t wait.”
Heading out on the road is something that isn’t easy and for East Lake, Miller says he knows everyone will be the underdogs again this week.
“We definitely will have momentum going into this game because we everyone doubted us,” Miller said. “We proved everyone wrong.”
Making it to states and capturing a title would be something awesome for both sides.
“It would mean a lot but again we just have to take it one game at a time in order for that to happen,” Carpenter said.
As for Miller and his group, he says it would mean so much for the community and the county to win it all.
“We have worked so hard from December of last year to be in the position we are today, but we are not done yet,” Miller said.
Miller will have to face off against two solid sophomores, defensive back Noah Carr and defensive lineman Carson Sullivan. Carr has four interceptions and Sullivan has six sacks on the season.
The Indians offense will come out fast that’s for sure. As long as East Lake wins at the line of scrimmage, the Eagles will have a chance.
Getting Miller into open space will be key for East Lake. He’s the top weapon along with senior running back Xavier Jackson, who has six touchdowns this season.
This should be a close game. Both teams are built differently, but things should even out as the night goes on. Venice certainly will be viewed as the favorite as an undefeated team who can score a ton at home.
Photo credit: Scott Lockwood
Jake Perper is the scout for Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.
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