The St. Thomas Aquinas Raiders host the Venice Indians at Brian Piccolo Stadium on Friday night in a FHSAA Class 7A state semifinal. The Raiders are looking to capture their third consecutive state title if they are victorious in their next two games.
St. Thomas Aquinas(10-2) have not lost a home playoff game since 2003. They have played in the state semifinal game every year since 2004 with the exception of 2013 and have a record of 9-2. STA have outscored their three playoff opponents 122-10 and compiled two shutouts. The Raiders pounded Palm Beach Lakes 35-0 in the regional quarterfinal, blanked Dwyer 37-0 in the regional semifinal and breezed by with a road victory at Mater Academy 50-10 last week in a regional final. They have outscored their opponents 480-102 and averaged 40 points per game this season.
The Raiders have a tremendous backfield with quarterback Jake Allen along with running backs Michael Epstein and Kyshaun Bryan who look to move the ball. Wide receivers Michael Harley, Joshua Palmer, Jonathan Moore and Jordan Merrell will made numerous receptions from Allen. Their defense can also score occasionally on a turnover with defensive backs that include Asante Samuel, Trenell Troutman, Alphonso Blades and Adetutu Daranijo.
Venice(12-0) enters this contest undefeated and have averaged 49 points per game this season. They have scored at least 28 points every game this year. It will be their first playoff game on the road following three home victories. They shut out South Fort Myers 56-0 in a regional quarterfinal, outlasted Braden River 64-42 in a regional semifinal and dropped East Lake 43-14 in a regional final last week. Their last two opponents fell to St. Thomas Aquinas in the previous two state semifinals.
The Indians are led on offense by quarterback Bryce Carpenter who can run and pass the ball. Running back Matthew Laroche will get the bulk of the carries for the team along with Courtney Doss. Carpenter looks to connect with wide receivers Jaivon Heiligh and Aaron Hackett on passes.