CLEARWATER — The saying goes, offenses win games and defenses win championships. The Clearwater Central Catholic’s defense has a chance to help the Marauders win the Class 3A state title today at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando against Jacksonville Trinity Christian.
CCC (11-2) held Miami Westminster Christian scoreless for 48 minutes just a little more than a week ago, in a 7-0 victory in the state semifinals.
“We just need to do what we did last week,” said Marauders defensive end Justus Reed, who has a team-high 13 sacks. “Everything has just been clicking right now for us. Everybody was flying to the football and if we do that, everything will take care of itself.”
The defense will need to take care of its assignments in CCC’s first showing in a state title game, as Trinity Christian boasts one of the most versatile offenses in the state of Florida. The Conquerors (11-1) feature sophomore running back Jalin Buie, who has rushed for 1,429 yards, averaging 8.5 yards per carry, and scored 11 TDs. Also providing the Marauders with more to worry about are the Conquerors’ other two top skill players in Louisville commit Isaiah Ford (36 catches, 691 yards) and quarterback Jaquez Riles (1,036 yards, 15 TDs).
Trinity Christian poses arguably the toughest test of the entire season for CCC, as the Conquerors defeated Tampa Catholic last week 20-11, an opponent that the Marauders lost to 13-10 on Sept. 6. CCC coach John Davis, who has coached in Pinellas County for 20 years, spoke about what challenges will unfold in today’s game.
“(Trinity Christian) is good. They’ve won three state championships and played for five,” Davis said. “They’ve been through this route before and it’s our first time. We’ve talked much about not getting overwhelmed by the lights as you will. (Trinity Christian) will not be overwhelmed. They’ll be ready to play. They’re probably the best team we will play all year and when you get this deep in the playoffs, that’s how it should be.”
The strength of CCC’s defense is the front seven, according to Davis, as the linebackers and defensive line have been responsible for forcing 24 interceptions and sacking opposing quarterbacks 36 times.
Trumping opposing team’s running games has been CCC’s senior linebacking corps that features Virginia commitment Caanan Brown (100 tackles), Kyle Brittian (129 tackles) and Connor Dorris (125 tackles). This game will be the biggest stage that many of the Marauders’ players will ever play on and Dorris believes defensively and as a team, they will be up to meeting the task of becoming the first Pinellas County school to win a state crown.
“Our defense as a whole is definitely very close,” Dorris said. “We all run to the football very well. (Trinity Christian) is big like Ocala Trinity Catholic and they get after it like Tampa Catholic. They just have that combination of size and speed. All of us seniors are excited and we want to win the championship for coach Davis.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.