CLEARWATER — Next.
All it took was one of Clearwater Central Catholic's fast starts combined with a early bout of nerves on the part of playoff rookies Bishop Verot. In just more than 10 minutes, the Marauders grabbed a 28-0 advantage and didn't let it go, rolling to a berth in the Class 3A Region 5 final against St. Petersburg Catholic.
"To come out like we did, to go down and score (on freshman C.J. Cotman's 5-yard run), then get a defensive touchdown, then get another TD (on a Conner Dorris 5-yard run), then another defensive touchdown … I mean, you can't ask for more than that," CCC coach John Davis said.
"This was the first time these kids have been in a playoff game and we made a lot of mistakes early," Vikings coach Phil Dorn said of the Fort Myers squad's three-turnover effort.
CCC (9-2) got relentless backfield pressure from linebackers Justus Reed and Dorris, pick-sixes from J.T. Steele and Connor Krieger, offensive production from every running back and receiver, and savvy punt returning from Kyle Brittain.
"We were just getting off the ball and being aggressive," said Reed, who had four hurries. "It's what Coach Davis wants us to do, he says, 'Stick a knife in them and twist it.' He just tells us to play hard all the time and we'll get the job done."
That was apparent when, with a 40-0 lead, CCC stopped Bishop Verot (6-4) on four plays from the 1, then authored a 99-yard touchdown drive.
Now comes rival SPC.
"We're ready," said Reed. "(Some of the SPC players) were talking after the game (in October, a 21-point Marauder win) about how they can hang with us. We'll see about that."