CLEARWATER — Jeff Smith scored on runs of 14, 35 and 38 yards, and Clearwater Central Catholic's defense came up with three crucial stops late in the second half to rally and defeat Countryside 43-35 Friday night.
Behind the efforts of Smith, Jervon Newton and Scott DePergola, the Marauders pounded Countryside with their rushing attack and scored on their first four possessions in the second half.
With the score tied at 28 in the third quarter, Countryside went on a seven-play drive keyed by a 29-yard completion from Trent Chmelik to Chris Ryan to give the Cougars a first down at the Marauders 17-yard line. Three plays later, running back Dante Satcher scored his third touchdown of the game to give the Cougars a 35-28 lead.
CCC quickly answered with its three-headed running attack, and DePergola scored from 10 yards out. The Marauders decided to go for two and succeeded when Smith hit Newton on a short pass at the goal line to take a 36-35 lead.
Countryside appeared to be on its way to the end zone again but Logan Miller and Mike DeMaio came up with back-to-back sacks of Chmelik to force a punt on fourth and long. Smith made the Cougars pay quickly as he rushed for 38-yard touchdown on a perfect read-option keeper.
The Cougars had another opportunity to score but Chmelik failed to complete a pass in the end zone to Ryan on a fourth and 11 at the CCC 27.
With the game under two minutes and CCC preparing to punt from its 35, the Cougars sent a strong rush and blocked the punt to set up a first down at the CCC 18. The celebration would be short lived, however, as Tyler McDonald recovered a Countryside fumble on the next play to effectively end the game.
Chmelik threw a touchdown pass to Ryan in the first half and ran for one in the third quarter. Newton put CCC on the board with a 59-yard run in the first quarter.