CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic entered Friday’s regular-season finale as Class 3A-District 5 champion. The Marauders left it believing they’re ready to make a deep playoff run, even if their head coach is hesitant to admit it.
CCC dominated throughout, taking an early lead and riding a stifling defense to a commanding 37-14 victory over visiting Anclote. In the process, it erased the memories of an overtime loss at IMG Academy the week before.
“We’ve done a really good job of getting out of the box all season,” said CCC coach John Davis. “We considered this a huge game, because when you lose, you don’t want to let it multiply and lose again.
“Our players feel like we have a chance and I think we do, too. But, I’ve been doing this long enough to know you better win the first one before you talk about the second and third.”
The Marauders held overwhelming advantages in yards (410-172) and first downs (19-7). Once Conner Dorris scored his second touchdown on a 1-yard run midway through the second quarter, CCC (8-2) held an insurmountable 21-0 lead.
While the Mauraders, who are home to Bishop Verot in a first-round playoff game Nov. 15, cruised, not much went right for the Class 5A, District 7 champions. Anclote’s Willie Barrett and Trent Crawford combined for 129 rushing yards, while QB Brandon Vinkler left in the second with a left knee injury.
Vinkler said he twisted the knee and expects to play next week in the school’s first home playoff game against Tarpon Springs.
With Vinkler sidelined, Anclote struggled against a CCC defense that’s allowed only 114 points. The Sharks (6-4) trailed 30-0 late in the third quarter when Barrett returned an interception 102 yards. Barrett gained 68 rushing yards to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau again, while Crawford, whose 11-yard run closed the scoring in the final minute, finished 23 yards short of the mark.
“We’re already over this,” said Anclote head coach Matt Wicks. “We’ll be ready to play Tarpon and I think we’ll be able to run the ball like we want to against them. Tarpon isn’t as big as [the Marauders] are.”
Jeff Smith capped CCC’s opening drive with a 49-yard pass to a crossing Blake Gomez, before Dorris scored from the 4 one drive later for a 14-0 advantage.
Anclote 0 0 7 7 — 14
CCC 14 9 7 7 — 37
C – Gomez 49 pass from Smith (Ramos kick)
C – Dorris 4 run (Ramos kick)
C – Dorris 1 run (Ramos kick)
C – Safety
C – Brunner 10 pass from Smith (Hopkins kick)
A – Barrett 102 interception return (Peppe kick)
C – DePergola 7 run (Hopkins kick)
A – Crawford 11 run (Peppe kick)