Lakeland wins against state champions; Six observations of each team soccer

Lakeland's Zach Pleuss attempts a pass against Venice in a spring contest.  Pleuss threw for three touchdowns and his team won 31-24.

Despite a host of injuries and a multitude of changes, the Class 7A Lakeland Dreadnaughts proved to be a better team than the reigning Class 8A football champions.

Lakeland went 21-0 at halftime and defeated Venice High 31-24 in a spring football competition Thursday at Bryant Stadium.

The win was led by Lakeland quarterback and Ridge Community transfer Zach Pleuss, who completed 14 of 21 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns. Daidren Zipperer caught four of those passes for 130 yards and two points.

Pleuss threw a 59-yard TD pass to Zipperer at 7:33 in the first quarter and Lakeland running back Don’Ares Johnson ran 33 yards for a touchdown at 3:15 in the second quarter. Then Pleuss threw Tyler Williams a 10-yard touchdown shot with 20 seconds left to give the Dreadnaughts a 21-0 lead at the break.

Lakeland running back Don'Ares Johnson slides forward against Venice.  Johnson ran for a 33-yard touchdown in the spring contest.

“We feel good about it, but it just showed us what we need to work on this summer,” said Lakeland coach Bill Castle. “Obviously we have to clean up any penalties that we received (Thursday night) and just try to build that game and have a good summer of (of) work.”

After Venice got on the board with a touchdown pass early in the third quarter, Pleuss countered with a 35-yard touchdown pass to Zipperer in a third and seventh game with 3:30 left to take Lakeland’s lead to 28 . 7. Lakeland’s last points came on Calum Maldoon’s 26-yard field goal at 8:42 in the fourth quarter.

Venice quarterback Brooks Bentley hurls a pass at Lakeland while Tyler Jefferson tries to block the attempt in a spring contest.

The final results for Venice included an 18-yard touchdown pass from Brooks Bentley to Keyon Sears at 4:36 in the fourth, a 20-yard field goal from Kirill Kotov with less than three minutes left, and a 20-yard Bentley touchdown pass to Sears with 1.7 seconds in the game in a fourth and tenth game.

Bentley threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns while Sears had six catches for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

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