Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

Football: Clearwater Central Catholic 29, Berkeley Prep 28

TAMPA — After a day's delay and missing a point-after kick earlier in the game, Preston McDonald still wasn't feeling any pressure.

"Not really," the diminutive senior simply said about facing a 32-yard field goal attempt with 4.3 seconds left and Clearwater Central Catholic trailing host Berkeley Prep by two.

Even though his kick was tipped at the line, he was able to power the ball between the pipes as the clock expired, completing CCC's comeback from a 14-point deficit to an amazing 29-28 opening-week victory.

How McDonald got the opportunity for the winning kick was the biggest story in a game where the Buccaneers seemingly had things in hand.

When QB Josh Youngblood (10 carries, 112 yards) rewarded his defense's three-and-out 41 seconds into the fourth quarter with a first-play, 68-yard sprint down the left sideline to the end zone, and after Nate Lockhart's fourth PAT kick, Berkeley Prep held what seemed to be an insurmountable 28-14 lead.

Aggressive running back Jakob Hines (23 carries, 121 yards, two touchdowns) and counter-puncher JaVon Cooper (38 yards) helped drive the Bucs to the big lead.

But while screen passes from first-year starting signal-caller Rory Hicks to junior wideout Jerjuan Newton clicked, the Marauders changed things up.

"I've got the best offensive coordinator in high school football," said CCC head coach Chris Harvey of OC — and legendary former mentor — John Davis. "He sees things that other people don't see."

With bulldog running from Jerzhan Newton (eight carries, 71 yards) and QB draws from Hicks, the Marauders answered Berkeley's quick score with a 1-yard Deandre Fitz-Henley dive to draw within eight after McDonald's PAT try drifted wide left with 8:45 left.

The defense stepped up next as Fitz-Henley's huge hit forced a fumble recovered on a bounce by senior Jordan Presley and returned 50 yards to the Bucs' 11.

Two plays later, Hicks and Jerjuan Newton connected on another screen, this time for 16 yards and a TD with six minutes left. A conversion pass fell incomplete.

"We worked early and often on that (screen play) in practice, that was our game plan," said Jerjuan Newton, who finished with eight catches for 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

"We've got our scheme and I believe in our receivers," said Hicks (20-of-27 for 179 yards, completions to eight receivers, plus 56 yards rushing). "I find them and hit them."

After the defense came through again with a three-and-out, CCC went to work. Hicks hit junior Brett Seither for 8 yards on fourth and 7, then Bailey Brooks seven plays later at the first-down stake on fourth and 6. In between, he added 22 gutsy yards to keep the drive alive, pushing the ball within McDonald's range.

"I didn't do anything to prepare them (for Saturday), they worked their tails off from January to now," Harvey said. "After their (playoff loss last year), they heard what they couldn't be and worked very hard. This is what happens."

"We have great respect for CCC," said Berkeley Prep coach Dominick Ciao. "This was a tough game and we battled hard. You've got to be able to finish, and all credit goes to (CCC), they made the plays. But I'm proud of our team, we played well."

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