Friday's Class 8A state semifinal football preview: Venice vs. Miami Columbus

·4 min read

Miami Columbus (9-3) at Venice (12-1)

WHAT: Class 8A state semifinal.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Friday, Powell-Davis Stadium, 1 Indian Way, Venice.

LAST WEEK: Columbus 22 Miami Palmetto, 14; Venice 49, Winter Springs West Orange 7.

Easy as No. 1, No. 2, No. 3: Venice High football team turning into a Receiver Factory

An inside peek at game day: Walking the sidelines with the Venice High football team

Region champs: Venice pulls away from West Orange to capture another regional title

NOTES: About Columbus — The all-boys Catholic school has won one state title in 2019 and has been runners-up four times (1980, 1982, 2014, 2018). … The Explorers defeated Apopka, 21-20, for the Class 8A championship two years ago for their first state championship in a season when they went 11-4. … Last year Columbus finished unbeaten at 9-0 but did not opt into the FHSAA playoffs. … Instead, the Explorers defeated Deerfield Beach, 27-24, for the 8A Tri-County title a year ago. … Fourth-seeded Columbus suffered all three losses this year during a three-week span from Weeks 2 to 4, falling to St. Johns Bartram Trail, 12-6, Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, 33-17, and Miami Palmetto, 7-3. … Since then, the Explorers have won eight straight since, including two wins over Miami Palmetto, one 10-7 in the GMAC Bowl game and the other last week for the region title. … They outscored the opposition 280-45 during the winning streak and 348-139 for the season. … Columbus rallied from down 14-12 last week. … Through the air, QB Fernando Mendoza has thrown for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns on 107-for-169 accuracy (63%). His top receivers are WR Shiloh Conway (30 catches, 353 yards, 1 TD), WR Denim Desrosiers (30 catches, 325 yards, 4 TDs) and WR Eddie Durand (26 catches, 214 yards, 3 TDs). … On the ground, RB Tremonte Underwood Jr. (99 carries, 485 yards, 3 TDs), RB Denim Edwards (76 carries, 454 yards, 6 TDs) and RB Edward Bandy (53 carries, 331 yards, 4 TDs) pave the way. … CB Ken Moore Jr. (234 kickoff return yards), DB Darren McQueen Jr. (169 kickoff return yards) and ATH Cornelius Wright (166 punt return yards) head a potent special teams unit. … Columbus’ opponents were 68-39. … One opponent still is alive in the playoffs: Chaminade-Madonna in 3A.

Venice High running back DJ Escort rushes upfield for a gain during Class 8A-Region 3 playoff football action against West Orange at Powell-Davis Stadium in Venice last Friday. MATT HOUSTON/HERALD-TRIBUNE
Venice High running back DJ Escort rushes upfield for a gain during Class 8A-Region 3 playoff football action against West Orange at Powell-Davis Stadium in Venice last Friday. MATT HOUSTON/HERALD-TRIBUNE

About Venice — The team is in search of its third state title and first since defeating Bartram Trail 37-24 in 2017 for the 7A crown. Venice also won in 2000, knocking off Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, 77-14, for the 5A title. … From 2016-2020, Venice was eliminated by Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas with the exception of 2017 when it beat the Raiders. … Last year’s loss to St. Thomas came in the region final. … Venice has won 10 region championships. … Its only loss this season was a makeup game with Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons on Oct. 23 at home, 28-22. … In its current five-game winning streak since, top-seeded Venice has outscored the opposition, 261-42, with a running clock in each game for being up 35 points in the second half. … For the season, Venice has outscored its opponents, 594-141. … Venice picked off three passes (a fourth was nullified because of a penalty) and had seven sacks against West Orange. … On the ground, RB DJ Escort averages 7.2 yards per carry (197 carries, 1,409 yards, 18 TDs), RB Alvin Johnson III has a 7.1 yards per carry average (81 carries, 575 yards, 10 touchdowns), RB Jamarice Wilder averages 8.2 yards per attempt (40 carries, 326 yards, 6 TDs) … Through the air, QB Ryan Browne has thrown for 1,162 yards on 145-of-249 accuracy (58 percent) with 27 touchdowns. WR Omari Hayes, who has taken snaps in the wildcat formation, has 17 carries for 135 yards and five touchdowns while catching a team-high 54 passes for 760 yards and 11 scores. WR Jayshon Platt leads the team with 867 receiving yards on 50 catches with 11 touchdowns. WR Keyon Sears has 13 catches for 233 yards and three scores. … Venice’s opponents have an 82-50 record with two opponents alive in the playoffs — Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons and Cocoa, both in 4A. A third, Miami Northwestern, played Venice played in the fall preseason classic.

WHAT'S NEXT?: The winner plays the winner of the Apopka-Port St. Lucie Treasure Coast game, 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 18 at DRV PNK Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. … In the regional finals, third-seeded Apopka (11-2) defeated Sanford Seminole, 28-27, in overtime. … Second-seeded Treasure Coast (10-1) knocked off Palm Beach Central, 34-0.

MAFFEZZOLI’S PICK: Venice 27, Columbus 21.

LAST WEEK: 1-0. PLAYOFFS: 6-1. TO DATE: 134-30 (82%)

Dennis Maffezzoli is the deputy sports editor for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and chief reporter for Sarasota Herald-Tribune and HTpreps covering Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties. Support local journalism by subscribing.

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Friday's Class 8A state semifinal football preview: Venice vs. Miami Columbus

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