CLEARWATER — As he addressed his players after their 42-0 Class 3A state semifinal loss to Fort Lauderdale University School on Friday, Clearwater Central Catholic coach John Davis tried to remind them of this year’s accomplishments. He brought up the school-record 11 wins, the first semifinal appearance in school history, the seven shutouts.
Judging by the bloodshot eyes, it’s going to take a while for the Marauders to accept this loss.
The Suns (11-0) dominated from the opening kickoff. They outgained CCC 478-118. University quarterback Mike White was close to unstoppable, completing 26 of 30 passes for 324 yards and two touchdowns.
After missing a 46-yard field goal on their first drive, the Suns scored on their next six possessions. It was CCC’s first shutout of the season, and the 42 points allowed is more than half of the 78 it has given up in 12 previous games.
“Overall, they were the best team we have ever played,” CCC junior linebacker Caanan Brown said. “They were bigger, faster, stronger. They executed very well. And they weren’t just speed and size with no coaching. They were coached very well.”
From the beginning, University established its passing game. White hit seven straight passes on the opening drive, which stalled when he was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Ethan Thompson and Kyle Brittain. Ilan Kruss’ 46-yard field-goal attempt fell short.
The Marauders (11-2) were hampered on their first drive when Blake Gomez was called for intention grounding on second down, resulting in a 28-yard loss. After a CCC punt, the Suns went back to work.
University drove 55 yards on six plays, highlighted by a 32-yard run by Jordan Scarlett, who finished with 89 yards. He pounded it in from the 6 for the first touchdown.
Another CCC punt resulted in another six-play drive by the Suns. This one ended when LaJuan Hunt ran in from 6 yards to make it 14-0 early in the second quarter. CCC was forced to punt a third time, and White capped a 10-play drive by hitting Jordan Cunningham on a 13-yard pass.
Late in the second quarter, White hooked up with Sam Bruce on a 37-yard pass to make it 28-0 at halftime. The Marauders’ only scoring chance came earlier in the quarter when Matt Fosnacht had a 32-yard field-goal attempt blocked.
“We knew they were a great team,” Davis said. “There’s no doubt we were outmanned. I thought our kids played hard, but, hey, the quarterback’s a great player, they’ve got great receivers and running backs, their offensive line is huge. Defensively they’ve got guys who can run everywhere. But I’m proud of our guys.”
Davis tried to shake things up by starting Jeff Smith at quarterback in the second half, but the Suns’ defense harassed him as well. Meanwhile, White was able to stand untouched in the pocket and pick apart the CCC secondary.
On the first drive of the third quarter, White completed four straight passes to move the ball to the CCC 14. Hunt scored his second touchdown with a 14-yard run.
When Sam Bruce returned a CCC punt to the 10-yard line, the Suns were poised to score again. Two plays later, Hunt scored his third touchdown on a 3-yard run.
Davis said his team had no answer for University’s offense.
“You either have to die by the blitz or lay back and cover them,” Davis said. “We tried to do a little of both but nothing seemed to work.”
After spending all week looking at University film, Davis knew it would be difficult. University, which is only seven years old, has 17 players with Division I offers.
“Win, lose or draw tonight, I couldn’t be any less proud of our guys than I am,” Davis said. “We just ran out of steam and got beat by a better team. No shame when that happens.”