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Clearwater Central Catholic returns to state semifinals

The Marauders endure self-inflicted miscues in the second half, but dig deep to fend off Carrollwood Day.
Clearwater Central Catholic struggles a bit in the second half, but still finds a way to top Carrollwood Day and move on to the Class 1M state semifinals.
Clearwater Central Catholic struggles a bit in the second half, but still finds a way to top Carrollwood Day and move on to the Class 1M state semifinals. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published 4 hours ago

CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic coach Chris Harvey wasn’t planning on his star quarterback playing as many snaps on defense as he did against Carrollwood Day. Then again, after the first half of Friday’s Class 1M region final, it didn’t seem like the Marauders would need him to.

Sophomore quarterback Jershaun Newton got CCC off to a hot start against the Patriots, scoring a pair of touchdowns as the Marauders took a 21-3 lead into halftime.

In the second half, Carrollwood Day fought back, and self-imposed CCC errors made the game competitive down the stretch. But despite having just 16 yards of total offense in the final two quarters, the Marauders scraped by, beating the Patriots 21-11 to advance to next week’s state semifinal. It’ll be the Marauders’ first since 2019.

“He’s not a vocal leader, he’s not a speaker. He is a guy who just plays his butt off,” Harvey said of Newton, who played defensive end for the first time this season. “There comes a time in the season where you’ve just got to get the best guys on the field.”

CCC (11-1) might not have had much success offensively in the second half, but in the first half it was the Patriots (6-3) who struggled to move the ball. CCC, meanwhile, scored on three of its first four possessions, including touchdown runs of 1 and 42 yards by Newton.

“I didn’t see nothing. I hit the hole, and I saw nothing,” Newton said about his long touchdown run. “Nobody tackled me, so I scored.”

Carrollwood Day had just 46 yards of offense in the first half, and kicker Juan Garanton put the Patriots on the board with a 27-yard field goal after three CCC personal foul penalties gave Carrollwood Day good field position.

And in the second half, penalties and bad snaps only continued to stymie the Marauders’ momentum.

Late in the third quarter, the Patriots finally started using those mistakes to their advantage. Carrollwood Day starting quarterback Jake Coniglio went down with an injury in the first half. But as the fourth quarter neared, Alvaunte Brown marched the Patriots down the field, and Almari Brown eventually scored on a 6-yard touchdown run. Carrollwood Day made it a two-score game with a two-point conversion.

But the Marauders defense came through, blocking a late Carrollwood Day field-goal attempt on its next possession to all but dash the Patriots’ hopes.

Newton, who said he was excited about the challenge of playing both ways Friday, ended the night with three sacks on defense.

It was tiring, Newton said, and at times he limped through cramps. But thanks in part to his two-way contributions, the Marauders stayed alive to play another game.

And that’s something to be proud of, Harvey said, no matter how his team got there.

“We were able to fight to finish,” Harvey said. “Any time you’re in a game that’s sort of sloppy, whether it’s on us or just the nature of the game … (it’s nice) just to see them finish and fight for each other, play for each other, and be able to come out on top.”

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