CLEARWATER — St. Petersburg Catholic didn't stand much of a chance Friday night, said everyone.
Clearwater Central Catholic, their former arch and now just friendly rivals, were too big, too strong and much too deep for the Barons.
CCC had 11 players on offense, and get this — 11 players on defense who weren't the same guys that played offense.
And that defense? Oh, just one of the best in all of Tampa Bay.
But a not-so-funny thing happened on the way to a Marauder rout, not funny at all to CCC coach John Davis — the Barons kept fighting, and the Marauders were only interested enough to do just enough to win a 35-14 decision that may have left the losing team happier than the one that won.
"Moral victory? I dunno, maybe, I guess," said SPC coach Steve Dudley, who continues to nudge his team back to respectability against great odds. "I was very pleased with the way we played in the second half. That is a state-caliber team, and our guys know we can play even better."
SPC wide receiver Markqus Ruppell knows. He tried to convince the Marauders of that after the game. "We can beat you," he said, a few times, smiling and doing his best to convince them. The Marauders tried to ignore him.
CCC was fortunate Friday the Barons were a team of only 24 rostered players, two of them kickers and a few others called up just to fill seats on the bus. Otherwise, taking its foot off the gas like it did and cruising to victory would not have gone so smoothly.
"We're a little bit immature," said Davis, who shared his displeasure with the team afterward. "What did they do? They got ahead and started to relax a little. You do that in football and you're going to get beat. … We can't do that."
Unless your opponent is a team that can barely scrimmage itself in practice.
It was 28-14 for most of the second half, and the Barons had five chances to get within a touchdown, thanks to CCC mistakes, penalties and fumbles.
In the fourth quarter, the Barons were stopped on fourth down, fumbled and threw an interception, all in CCC territory.
"We just didn't have the oomph there at the end," said running back Tony Jones.
Fortes In Unitate is says on the back of their uniforms. Strong in Unity.
"We've got nine or 10 guys that are as good as anybody in the county," Dudley said. "But our depth. … We had about 19 guys tonight, and when you're playing with that many most of them are going to be going both ways."
The Barons were unspectacular, but played a better game than anyone expected, especially after falling behind 21-0.
"They probably outplayed us tonight," said Davis.
At their best, the Marauders are a far better team, make no mistake. And it's fair to assume they may have played down to the competition, knowing the Barons couldn't possibly muster the energy to come back from such a big deficit. Last week's win over Trinity Catholic showed how good the Marauders can be when threatened.
But it's a bad habit.
Davis reminded us this is still a young team. The offensive line is mostly new, and the coach joked they might have set a record for holding penalties.
He told the defense that was the worst game it has played in two years. And the offense continues to slog along, looking like a team that, well, alternates quarterbacks and can't find a rhythm as a result.
Those aren't excuses, though.
They are concerns. And everyone seems to have them, as well as one pressing question that was asked once again after a Marauder performance.
Is this a great team, or just a good one?
"Trust me," Davis said, "the coaches are asking those questions, too."