CLEARWATER — Trailing by two at halftime to Northeast, the message in the Clearwater Central Catholic locker room was simple: Don't worry, be happy.
"We had a talk in the locker room and we decided that everybody had to get happy,'' sophomore running back Jerzhan Newton said. "When we're mad, we don't play at our best. So we had to chill down.''
Newton and the Marauders were certainly smiling by the end of the game. CCC scored 43 second-half points, thanks mainly to the determined running of Newton, and defeated the Vikings 57-30. Newton finished with 153 yards and two touchdowns and quarterback Rory Hicks threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to help the Marauders improve to 4-0.
Both teams sputtered in the first quarter before things started to heat up. On the third Northeast possession, quarterback Keon Gulley hit Khaishef Edwards on a 57-yard touchdown pass to make the score 7-0.
Then CCC was forced to punt for the third straight time on its own 24-yard line. The snap sailed over punter Corey Carson's head for a safety and 9-0 Vikings lead. That seemed to motivate the Marauders.
On its first possession of the second quarter, Hicks hit Jerjuan Newton on a 15-yard screen pass for a touchdown. The Marauders forced a Northeast fumble on the next possession. Hicks ended a seven-play, 40-yard drive with a 7-yard run to give CCC a 14-9 lead.
That looked like it would be the halftime score, but on fourth and 1 from Northeast's 45, the Marauders' defense jumped offsides to keep the drive alive. On the next play, Gulley connected with Cyrus Miller on a 40-yard TD pass for a 16-14 lead.
CCC moved down to the 1 after a catch and 31-yard run by Jerzhan Newton. But the clock ran out.
The third quarter started with CCC going on a 13-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Hicks hitting George Nistazos on a 7-yard TD pass for a 22-16 lead. Then Gulley hit Edwards again, this time 77 yards for a score to give Northeast its last lead, 23-22.
CCC scored on its next three possessions to take a 20-point lead. Jerzhan Newton had a 27-yard TD run, Chianti Davis had a 26-yard halfback pass to C.J. Catia and Hicks hit Jerjuan Newton on a 21-yard pass. From there, the rout was on.
"It is what it is,'' Northeast coach Jeremy Frioud said. "Just a good, old-fashioned (butt) whooping.''
Gulley and Edwards had a big night in the loss. Edwards caught six passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Gulley had 215 passing yards.