VENICE — The home crowd was a bit confused at halftime of Friday night's Class 7A , Region 3 final between Venice and Bloomingdale. The Bulls had just kicked a long field goal to take a three-point halftime lead over their Indians.
Venice, the defending Class 7A champ, rarely trails, especially at home.
But things returned to normal in the second half. Venice scored three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter and never looked back in a 57-32 win. The Indians (12-1) will play in the state semifinals at Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
Bloomingdale ended its best season in school history at 11-2.
"The first half was back and forth with a lot of explosive plays," Bloomingdale coach Max Warner said. "In the second half, we just kind of ran out of bullets."
The first half started quickly and never slowed down. Bloomingdale just missed a long touchdown pass on its first possession, but the defense made up for it. Levi Williams intercepted Venice quarterback Hayden Wolff and took it back 30 yards for an 8-0 lead. The two-point conversion pass was good.
The Indians got that right back on a 21-yard run from Brandon Gregory and their two-point run worked to tie the score. Venice fumbled on its next possession, and Bloomingdale turned that into a Charles Montgomery 4-yard touchdown run.
The Bulls then blew a coverage and Wolff was able to hit a wide open Zack Sessa on an 84-yard touchdown pass. No problem for the Bulls. They scored on a Lance Alderson to Terrel Ferrell 48-yard touchdown pass and went back up again 22-15. Venice answered with a 16-yard yard TD pass to Mike Trapani.
The Bulls were driving late in the second when Alderson was hit from behind on a pass attempt, and Denique Mayfield scooped and scored on a 71-yard touchdown to give Venice its first lead, 29-22.
Didn't last long. Faced with a fourth and 18 on the Indians' 48, punter Jacob McDonald threw a 28-yard pass to Jalen Jackson to convert the first down. Montgomery then went 15 yards on the next play to tie the score at 29.
"That was something that we'd practiced all year," Warner said. "Jacob threw a great ball. We just saw a matchup that we could use."
A Rodney Roseboro interception with 29 seconds left put the Bulls in field-goal range. McDonald drilled a 42-yarder with three seconds to give Bloomingdale a 32-29 halftime lead.
The momentum didn't carry over.
Bloomingdale went backward on its first possession and was forced to punt. Wolff hit Zach Fryar on a 15-yard touchdown pass to take a 36-32 lead. That was followed by a Brandon Gregory 10 yard run for a TD. And after a Bulls' fumble, Trapani made that hurt with a three yard run.
It was 50-32 after the third and the hole was too deep for Bloomingdale.
Venice tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown to complete the scoring. Bloomingdale was outscored 28-0 in the second half.
"We were making plays in the first half," said Alderson, who threw for 287 yards. "In the second half, we didn't have it."
Venice has won 12 straight games.
Warner said regardless of the outcome, he'll take an 11-2 season.
"I'm very proud to be the head coach at Bloomingdale and to be associated with this group of men," Warner said. "What they've done for Bloomingdale and Valrico is epic, historic. They changed the whole culture."