Homestead’s best football season in 18 years comes to an end with blowout loss to Venice

David Wilson
·4 min read

When Philip Simpson and Homestead decided to opt in to the Florida High School Athletic Association postseason, it was with a day like Friday in mind. The Broncos, already winners of multiple playoff games for the first time since 2002, welcomed a perennial Florida powerhouse to Miami for the Region 4-Class 7A semifinals.

A few weeks before the season began, Simpson and his coaching staff met with their players to talk about their plan for 2020. Homestead won only two games in 2019, but it was Simpson’s first year. He knew the Broncos would be one of the most improved teams in 7A and he knew the risks of opting in: the possibility of an unlucky random draw in the postseason and a season cut short after just three or four games. He also knew what a game against a team like Venice could do for his program. Even after a 50-13 loss to the Indians, Simpson feels vindicated.

“I’m extremely satisfied for what we decided to do,” the coach said. “These guys hurt because they believed. They believed they had a chance to come out here and compete with these guys, and had a chance to beat these guys.”

Venice, which won the 7A championship in 2017 and has now been to the region finals five straight years, put up 155 total yards in the first quarter before the Broncos (3-3) defense settled. They shut out the Indians’ offense from the 8:55 mark of the second quarter to the 2:52 mark of the third and were well within striking distance for a comeback deep into the third quarter, down 30-13 until Venice (10-3) scored two touchdowns in 79 seconds to put away Homestead at Traz Powell Stadium.

The Broncos, Simpson said, simply ran out of gas against an opponent who has played twice as many games this season. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly delaying the start of the season for Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Homestead was one of just five public schools across South Florida to opt into the FHSAA’s state series rather than guaranteeing itself more games by playing in the new tri-county tournament. It was a decision made with a game like this in mind.

For most of the first half, Homestead hung with Indians. After Venice opened the scoring with a 19-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colin Blazek to star wide receiver Weston Wolff, the Broncos immediately answered with a 62-yard touchdown run by junior running back Daron Williams on the first play of their ensuing possession to tie the game at 7-7. In the second quarter, freshman quarterback Joshua Townsend connected with junior wide receiver Adrian Harris for a 24-yard touchdown to cut the Indians’ lead to 21-13. Homestead held Venice to just 53 yards in the second quarter as star defensive lineman Daniel Lyons, another junior, terrorized Blazek and led the Broncos’ defense to four tackles for loss in the period.

All 11 starters on offense will be back for Homestead next season, plus all four starting defensive lineman and both starting cornerbacks. Even if the Broncos weren’t going to be a title contender yet, Simpson knew they could use this season as a springboard into 2021.

“We’ve got a young group of guys,” Simpson said. “There’s no need to crawl. Let’s jump in. We’ve got some guys that’s willing to compete. We want to put them in that fire now.”

When Simpson took over at Homestead last year, he did so on two weeks notice. He had spent the previous three years as the defensive coordinator at Southridge, helping the Spartans win the Class 8A championship in 2016. The Broncos hired him less than a month before the 2019 season began and they limped to a dismal season, albeit one Simpson drew confidence from.

Throw in some offseason transfers — including a handful of stars from Southridge — and a leap from irrelevance from contention wasn’t far off. After Friday, the leap feels a little closer for Simpson.

“Out of our six games, I appreciate this game more than all of them,” Simpson said. “What these kids just got in the regional semifinals — you’re talking about a situation where they’re willing to see what it takes to win in the third round.”