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Column: In his defense CCC coach John Davis trusts

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Sat. November 24, 2012 | John C. Cotey | Email

Column: In his defense CCC coach John Davis trusts

CLEARWATER

Breaking! Someone scored on Clearwater Central Catholic.

Really.

It happened.

Friday night.

With 2:49 left in the first half, Tampa Catholic running back Kenny Bryant scored on a 3-yard run.

Usually this time of year, that’s hardly news.

But this CCC defense has been newsworthy, to say the least.

Bryant’s touchdown run was the first scored against the Marauders in 17 quarters, dating to Oct. 19.

It ended a streak of 206 straight minutes spanning approximately 200 plays by opponents — 200 fruitless plays that couldn’t even manage a field goal.

CCC recovered from the shock rather nicely, not allowing another point and rallying to a thrilling 10-7 victory on their shiny new field.

“We got scored on in the first half, but we told ourselves at halftime if we keep doing our stuff, we wont get scored on again,” said linebacker Ethan Thompson.

CCC’s stuff — good, hard-nosed assignment football, flying to the ball, making tackles — was plenty good enough in the second half.

Tampa Catholic ran nine plays in the third quarter, gaining 19 yards and punting twice.

In the fourth quarter, the Crusaders threw an interception and punted twice.

The Marauders offense, as usual, did just enough.

Never once did the Marauders seemed harried Friday night in winning their 11th straight game.

When it came right down to it, John Davis knew he just had to keep his troops calm, because of his defense.

He knew a 7-0 halftime deficit wasn’t anything to stress over, because of his defense.

And he knew, with the game tied and his offense stalled, he could gamble and go for it on fourth down with three minutes remaining, because of his defense.

CCC didn’t convert that first down.

But it didn’t matter.

Because of the CCC defense.

“After I went for it I thought that could end up losing the game for us, really,” Davis said. “It wasn’t probably the smartest thing. But I trust my defense.

“But when they are playing that good, that does afford you some opportunities to go for it.”
Tampa Catholic took over on the 35, victory within its grasp, and went backyard.

A run for minus-1, a penalty, a sack by Caanan Brown and a pass attempt broken up by Jake Shade.

With 2:25 to play, the Crusaders had to punt. CCC drove 42 yards and kicked winning field goal.

The defense, again, carried CCC to victory. And next week the Marauders, for the first time in school history, will host a state semifinal.

“I’m looking out there at these guys, seven shutouts this year, and we’re not very big. But we’ve got some guys that play really hard, though.” Davis said. “They run the football, they just keep getting at you.”

Friday night, the Marauders  were without their most decorated player, Mike Stevenson, a top recruit at safety, who was out with a concussion.

And on the ninth play of the game, they lost Domenic James to a season-ending injury.

But they kept coming.

“We ran to the ball every single play, like we have every other game,” said Brown. “That’s what we do.”

No one has scored in the first quarter against CCC, and of the 48 quarters the Marauders have played, 40 of them have been scoreless.

Since its season-opening collapse against East Lake, a Class 8A school that just ran CCC over in the second half, the Marauders have had one of Tampa Bay’s best run defenses.

The Eagles ran for 274 yards way back when.

No one has come within 175 of that total since.

Tampa Catholic only managed 71 yards rushing on 27 carries, better than its 63 yards on 30 carries in the first meeting.
The Crusaders scored, again. So there was that.

But that, once again, wasn’t enough.

John C. Cotey can be reached at cotey@tampabay.com or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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