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CLEARWATER — Clearwater Central Catholic coach John Davis took a hard look at his team in the preseason and came to a realization. To have a successful season, his team was going to have to run.
That’s a departure for Davis, who has won in the past with strong-armed quarterbacks like his son, Jay, Harrison Beck and L.D. Crow.
But with two young quarterbacks and an untested junior, the Marauders were going to live and die by the ground game.
“I’m not an idiot,’’ Davis said. “I’m going to adapt to what we’ve got. I’m not going to line up and run the same offense no matter what we’ve got. We’re going to build around what we can do.’’
And what the Marauders can do is run.
Anchored by senior running back Justin Goodloe and senior full back Blair Vaughn, CCC has run its way to an 8-2 record and playoff appearance Friday night at Fort Meade. Goodloe has rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns while Vaughn has chipped in with 428 yards and 10 TDs.
A quick look at the stat sheet tells all about the Marauders. They rush for 232 yards per game and throw for 61. Stop the run and you stop CCC, which few teams have done.
“We’re very young at quarterback,’’ Davis said. “Dropping back and throwing from the pocket is not their strong suit. We’ve struggled throwing the ball no doubt. Now, you can either keep trying to do it or you can run the football. We’ve been successful doing that.’’
Junior Jake Shade eventually emerged as the starting quarterback ahead of Jake Hood. The most passes Shade has thrown in a game is 15. His main job is to make sure the snap gets from him to the running backs.
Mostly, that has been Goodloe. In his past three games, he has rushed for more than 160 yards in each. Goodloe also plays in the secondary on defense, which means he rarely leaves the field.
“He’s a heckuva football player,’’ Davis said. “He’s got over 1,000 yards and I’ve limited his carries because I don’t want to wear him out. I can put him anywhere and he’ll be good at it.’’
Like any good teammate, Goodloe said he succeeds because of others.
“We have the combination of power and speed,’’ Goodloe said. “We’ll run on the corners and then blast it up the middle and wear teams out. And our offensive line has been moving guys off the ball.’’
Unlike Goodloe, Vaughn has mostly been a defensive player. It wasn’t until the middle of last season that Vaughn decided he wanted to try running the ball.
“We had some goal line drills and coach was giving people a chance to be the fullback,’’ Vaughn said. “I thought I’d give it a try and the first time I ran the ball and knocked some people down and I scored. I just thought running up and hitting someone full speed would be a lot of fun.’’
Davis knew he had a talent after Vaughn ran his first play at fullback.
“First game he played against Wiregrass Ranch last year we threw him a ball in the flat,’’ Davis said. “He caught it, which was a miracle for our fullbacks, but then he leaped a defender. Everybody was going crazy. Then the next play we run a veer and he busted it for a 20 yard touchdown. Now he thinks he’s Earl Campbell.’’
Goodloe and Vaughn will have to play like Earl Campbell against Fort Meade. The Miners are 8-2 and have won eight straight games. In fact, they have won 38 straight games against Pinellas County opponents. The last county team to beat the Miners? CCC in 1998.
The Marauders were in the same district as the Miners the past two years. Last year, it lost 27-21. This year, they’ll take another run at it.
“It’s exciting right now to see what can happen,’’ Goodloe said. “There’s a lot of energy. It feels weird to be practicing this late in the season, but we’re all ready to go.’’