FORT MEADE — Clearwater Central Catholic spent the season talking about what kind of team it could be, talking about potential and possibility and promise.
The Marauders knew as well as anyone the way their makeover of the team has unfolded the past two seasons. They pound the ball on offense and pound opponents on defense.
This smashmouth philosophy was supposed to help in games like the one CCC played Friday night. In the playoffs, on the road, against a Fort Meade team that has won 38 straight games against Pinellas County opponents dating back to 1999.
But when the Marauders needed to move the pile, when they had to run most, they could not. And that prevented them from ending years of futility in a 13-10 loss in the Class 3A region semifinals.
“We had our chances to win,” CCC coach John Davis said. “We just couldn’t finish.”
The key moment came on the Marauders’ first drive of the second half. Clinging to a 7-6 lead, CCC moved methodically down the field behind the running of Justin Goodloe, who broke through for a few big gains. He also hauled in a 39-yard reception to give CCC a chance to break the game open.
On first and goal at the Miners’ 3-yard line, the Marauders were stuffed on two straight runs. Goodloe tried a halfback pass on third down that fell incomplete.
But CCC got new life because of a pass interference penalty. Again, the Marauders were denied the end zone. Six plays produced 1 yard and CCC settled for a 18-yard field goal by David Campbell.
“That was the backbreaker,” Davis said. “We needed to score a touchdown right there. And that’s something we’ve done all season.
We’ve been able to score touchdowns in the red zone.”
Instead of being ahead by eight with a touchdown, the Marauders were up 10-6 . Fort Meade made them pay by marching 67 yards on the ground and capping the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to go ahead 13-10.
The Marauders had their chance at the end. With three minutes remaining, CCC capitalized after a fumbled snap on a punt gave it good field position. The Marauders got one first down on a pass interference penalty. But with CCC facing a third-and-11 play at the Miners’ 32-yard line, Davis called for a pass play in hopes of getting a first down. If it did not work, the Marauders would try for a field goal to send the game into overtime.
CCC quarterback Jake Shade, though, threw an interception that sealed the game.
“We have to connect on the opportunities when we’re given them,” Davis said.
Shade played well in the first half with some short throws and put the Marauders ahead with a 10-yard touchdown to Trey Larry in the second quarter to make it 7-6 at the half.
“I would hoped that we could run the ball a little bit better,” Davis said. “We showed some balance and were able to mix it up. I just wish we were able to score a touchdown at the start of the third quarter.”