ST. PETERSBURG ó The St. Petersburg Green Devils have been climbing uphill all season.
They battled injuries, opponents and, like most teams in Florida, a schedule disrupted by Hurricane Irma. Coach Joe Fabrizio and his team have weathered all those distractions, but in the first round of the Class 7A region semifinals, they found a mountain too tall to climb as the Venice Indians capitalized on St. Petersburg mistakes and ran off with a 49-13 win Friday night.
"That team is notorious for forcing you into mistakes and not making many," Fabrizio said. "Thatís what they did tonight, and they beat us up pretty good."
The Green Devils received the opening kickoff and started moving down the field as Jalynn Williams led the offense. A 33-yard run by Derrel Kelley flipped the field and put St. Petersburg in scoring territory. The Indians defense stiffened and forced a turnover on downs. St. Petersburg forced a three and out to get the ball back, but the Green Devils couldnít mount any offense.
Venice soon exploded for 28 straight points. The only momentum the Green Devils gained was on a strip sack by Aleem Coley that Jahlon Holland scooped and raced 71 yards for a touchdown. Otherwise, it was all Venice as it outgained St. Petersburg 482 to 242 and capitalized on short fields.
"Iím really proud of my team because it has been a strange season," Fabrizio said. "Itís been that way for a lot of people, but we fought hard to get here."