ST. PETERSBURG — One swift kick, one Joey Carlin boot of 42 yards with two seconds remaining, ended St. Petersburg’s perfect season.
Carlin, the placekicker for Venice, kept his head and swung his right leg, lifting the ball high above the outstretched arms of the Green Devil defenders.
When the kick sliced through the uprights, Carlin leaped around the field, hugged by his teammates as they rallied to defeat the Green Devils 13-10 in the Class 5A region quarterfinals.
The St. Petersburg players, meanwhile, trudged off the field, beaten and heartbroken.
The frustration of losing for the first time wore on the Green Devils. One helmet was tossed high in the air. Two St. Petersburg stars, linebacker Jamone Myrick and running back Rashad Lewis, kneeled on the field long after the winning kick, both too inconsolable to move.
“We matched up pretty well,” Green Devils coach Joe Fabrizio said. “I knew it was going to be a close game that was probably going to come down to the fourth quarter and be decided by one or two points.
“Unfortunately, somebody had to lose and we came out on the short end.”
At the start, it seemed St. Petersburg (10-1) would cruise. The Green Devils scored on their first possession as quarterback David Jones rolled left on third down and hit Calvin Robinson on a 63-yard touchdown pass.
The defense made that 7-0 lead stand, holding Venice to 37 yards of offense in the first half.
The Indians nearly doubled that total on their opening possession of the third quarter. After the drive stalled, Venice settled for Carlin’s 20-yard field goal to make it 7-3.
For most of the game, the Green Devils rushing attack, averaging a county-best 331 yards per game, was bottled up.
Still, St. Petersburg got enough on the ground to mount a drive early in the fourth. But with first and goal on the Indians’ 9-yard line, the Green Devils couldn’t score a touchdown.
Instead, St. Petersburg settled for a 21-yard field goal by Sean Covington.
Venice (8-3) came to life with a tying drive that was highlighted by quarterback Grant Flessner’s 38-yard run and ended with running back Terrell Soloman’s 6-yard run for a touchdown.
The Green Devils were forced to punt with 52 seconds left. That set up the Indians’ winning score.
“We played pretty well,” Fabrizio said. “So did Venice. It was a team that if we played 10 times, we’d win five and they’d all be pretty close to the same score.
“It’s tough to lose because this is a great group of kids who are fun to be around.”