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TAMPA — One last time, Berkeley Prep quarterback Brad Mayes was forced out of the pocket and took off on a frantic scramble for daylight.
But now the game was out of reach and there was no reasonable path to victory, points or even a first down. So Mayes slid to the turf 25 yards short of the sticks, a final surrender to the dominance of the Clearwater Central Catholic defense.
A few Marauders defenders laughed loudly at the resignation and skipped off the field.
They didn’t even have to hit Mayes anymore to make their final point.
Diquan Walker rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns and the Marauders sacked Mayes nine times and battered him throughout the game, clinching the District 3A-5 title with a 35-21 victory over Berkeley Prep on Friday night.
“We were relentless,” said CCC defensive lineman Jordan Adderley, who sacked Mayes for a safety in the fourth quarter. “And we kept rotating in fresh bodies so we never got tired.”
The Marauders (6-1, 2-0) ended a four-game losing streak to the Buccaneers, a run in which they have been outscored by a cumulative score of 124-38. They also effectively clinched their first district title since 2005; CCC can still lose its final district game to St. Petersburg Catholic on Nov. 2 and finish in a three-way tie but still holds the tiebreaker.
Meanwhile, Berkeley Prep (6-1, 1-1) saw its 19-game regular-season winning streak — the longest in the area — come to an end at the hands of a team it has dominated in recent years.
CCC’s defense made things easy for its offense early.
Defensive back Jake Shade recovered a fumble deep in Berkeley Prep’s territory to set up Walker’s first touchdown, a 4-yard run around the end.
Two possessions later, on their 1-yard line, Mayes dropped back for a pass in the end zone. But he was swarmed by defenders and, hoping to avoid the safety, frantically tossed the ball into the waiting arms of linebacker Caanan Brown Jr. for a touchdown.
“Our defense has played lights-out all year,” CCC coach John Davis said. “We kept the pressure up all night.”
Mayes threw another interception late in the second quarter, and CCC quickly put together an eight-play, 63-yard drive that was capped by Blake Gomez’s 2-yard pass to Kyle Brittain for the 20-0 lead.
Things didn’t get much better for the Bucs after halftime, as Walker ripped off a 79-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter.
“I just took it to the house,” he said. “I didn’t think anyone would catch me.”
The Bucs did mount a furious rally in the second half, however, with Mayes finding a rhythm with 6-foot-4 freshman Jacob Mathis. Mayes and Mathis connected twice for touchdowns, the final one a 29-yarder with 2:24 left to close within 29-21.
Three plays later, Walker ended the suspense with a 47-yard touchdown run.
“I’m proud of the way my guys fought and came back tonight,” said Bucs coach Dominick Ciao. “But we basically had to play perfect against them tonight. They’re tough and play a physical brand of ball.”