Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Column: Drought rolls on, but Pinellas trio fought hard

ORLANDO — There was hope. There was happiness. There was hysteria.

Then, in the span of 18 hours in Green Cove Springs, East Lake and Orlando, there was nothing.

Again.

Friday night, Lakewood fell short by two points in a state semifinal.

East Lake staged an amazing rally, but lost in overtime of another state semifinal.

And Saturday, Clearwater Central Catholic lost 34-7 in the Class 3A state final because, well, Jacksonville Trinity Christian was just that much better.

What began as a weekend filled with enormous expectations ended with the Marauders lying on the shaded artificial grass of the Citrus Bowl with silver medals around their necks. The winners, meanwhile, took the awards stand one by one to receive gold, the public address announcer sounding like Charlie Brown's teacher to everyone in red and yellow.

Wah, wah, wah, wah, wah.

Pinellas County continues to wait for that first state title.

0 and forever.

"It's just one of those things, man," CCC coach John Davis said.

It has definitely become a thing. But for one half on a stiflingly sunny Saturday afternoon, one of the more infamous streaks was on the ropes.

The CCC defense was superb, the offense was underwhelming but adequate, and the score was tied at 0. If the CCC defense could keep it up and the offense could find its feet and Trinity Christian could make a mistake or two — but at least just one — anything could happen.

Then everything happened, none of it good for CCC.

Two plays into the second half, Isaiah Ford raced 58 yards down the sideline for a score.

Three plays later, another score. Six plays later, another score. And five plays later, more points.

"At one point in the third quarter, I turned around and asked, 'Are we still in the third quarter?' " Davis said. "That was obviously a bad experience. Everything that could go wrong for us there did."

In the middle of all that, trailing 14-0, Davis decided to go for it from his own 34 on fourth and 2.

He called the right play, but the pass wasn't very good, and while it still should have been caught, it wasn't.

Davis second-guessed himself afterward, but he made the right choice. CCC was down 14 points, everyone in the stadium could feel the game slipping away, and Davis hoped it could get his team moving.

It did — right into a brick wall.

But truthfully, there was no road around that wall, whether CCC tried to go for it or punt it.

Trinity Christian is a 3A school with 8A talent, a roster that boasts five 2015 recruits among ESPN's top 300, two in the top eight, and 247 recruiting analyst Chris Nee says LSU commitment Kevin Toliver might be the best 2015 prospect in the country.

The Conquerers have won four state titles. Which is four more than, well, you know.

Pinellas County, however, did not go down without a fight in a year many, including myself, predicted gold for the local boys. Heck, they even landed some punches.

Lakewood battled further into the season than most expected, and against Clay fought heroically to the bitter end with a defense that was held together with gum and electrical tape.

East Lake was buried by Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, but turned into the running dead to force an overtime that didn't seem possible.

And while CCC had the last shot to end the drought and fell short, it could take solace in ending one streak.

The Marauders scored, Conner Dorris breaking through on a touchdown run, the first points scored by a Pinellas County player since Dunedin's Dwight Kenon punched one in against Lakeland in 1986.

Maybe it starts there.

John C. Cotey can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JohnnyHomeTeam.

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