CLEARWATER — On third down for Clearwater Central Catholic, with Jesuit leading 3-0 and the first-quarter clock winding down, quarterback Jeff Smith hurled the ball in the direction of Caanan Brown. Brown, a senior tight end and linebacker, said he was simply excited to catch it.
Then Brown turned around, saw a clear path to the end zone and his first career offensive touchdown. So he took off running.
Brown’s 65-yard catch and dash put the Marauders on the board just before the start of the second quarter. Jesuit, all but shut down offensively in the second half, wouldn’t score again after Rhett Waldron’s 19-yard field goal, and CCC cruised to a 21-3 win.
After an overtime loss to rival Tampa Catholic last week, CCC coach John Davis said it was exactly what his team needed.
“It was huge,” Davis said. “You don’t want certainly a tough loss leading into a second loss. That’s one thing that we’ve talked about all week. We knew that these guys were good. They’re young, but they’re a very good football team.”
Aside from Brown’s score, CCC struggled to get anything going offensively in the first half. The Jesuit defense, led by top-tier recruit Vincent Jackson, held the Marauders to just 50 yards rushing and three first downs. CCC finished the half with 118 total yards, just 14 more than the Tigers.
In the second half, however, it was as if two different teams took the field.
On the first play from scrimmage after the break, Jesuit quarterback Vincent Testaverde threw an incomplete pass and went down with an ankle injury. He hobbled off the field and never returned.
Testaverde’s replacement, junior Trent Wessel, completed just three passes. Early in the fourth quarter he threw an interception that led to CCC running back Scott DePergola’s 15-yard touchdown run, and ultimately, the Tigers’ demise.
Injuries on defense also forced Jesuit coach Matt Thompson to utilize several inexperienced players, including a sophomore and three ninth graders.
“Basically we had a JV team back there,” Thompson said. “It’s tough.”
The Marauders had no trouble moving the ball on Jesuit late in the game, and CCC accrued 214 of its 332 total yards after the break.
CCC sustained lengthy drives in the second half, including its second of the third quarter, which ended in a 1-yard touchdown run from senior fullback Conner Dorris.
The CCC defense held Jesuit to just 57 total yards and two first downs after the break.
Thompson was disappointed that his team was outplayed in the second half, but thoughts of the first allowed him to remain upbeat.
“Every time you look at the film, it’s not always as bad as it seems, and when you win, it’s not always as good as it seems,” Thompson said. “We’ll take some positives, and we’ll build from it. …They were a better team tonight. But we’ll bounce back and be all right.”