CLEARWATER — As with any good team, momentum is usually generated by the defense.
Friday night, some soul-crushing, fourth-down stops in the first half made Clearwater Central Catholic even more unbeatable as the Marauders cruised past district challenger Admiral Farragut 44-3 for their second straight Class 3A-5 championship.
"Defense wins championships, and we always like to get the momentum going," said mobile linebacker Ethan Thompson, who had seven tackles on the night, including a fourth-and-3, second-quarter jailbreak at the CCC 13-yard line that became a big 6-yard loss.
"It helps our offense a lot, that's for sure."
Starting off with an interception by Demetri Royer at his own 30 followed by three straight stops on downs — two in the red zone — Clearwater Central Catholic (7-1, 4-0) shackled the Blue Jackets (4-3, 1-2) to just a 25-yard Sean Young field goal.
Even after inserting JV players in the later stages, the Marauders forced three more turnovers to run away with the convincing victory.
"When the defense plays good, the offense plays good," said senior running back and birthday boy Eric Davis. "It's great for the whole team and really gives us a lot of energy."
And when the Marauder offense is energized, watch out.
With weapons galore (11 players rushing for 325 total yards), CCC had six players reach the end zone and two athletes kick for points.
"There's no selfishness on this team," said Davis, who had 86 yards on the night. "Nobody cares about stats, all we care about is winning. Everybody on this team has a role and if we do our jobs, we win."
Davis wrapped up a solid 24 minutes of ball with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the hosts what would be an insurmountable 23-3 halftime advantage.
And after the rout was done and the celebrating had begun, all that was left was for coach John Davis to call Eric up front so the team could sing "Happy Birthday" to him. A perfect serenade to end a championship Friday.