GULFPORT — Boca Ciega needed to gain 3 yards in the final six seconds of Friday night’s Class 6A, District 9 game against Clearwater to win its first district championship since 2007. But it was the Tornadoes who got the stop in a thrilling 27-26 win over the Pirates.
Clearwater (6-2, 4-0) needs to defeat Largo next week to clinch the district title.
"I think our team grew up a little bit tonight," Clearwater coach Don Mesick said. "We haven’t really been in a situation where we had to take it right down the wire."
Trailing by six at the half, Clearwater intercepted Boca Ciega on the first drive of the third quarter and turned that into an 18-yard touchdown run by Qwa’Shaun Perry. Boca Ciega did not go away.
The Pirates (6-2, 3-1) scored two unanswered touchdowns. One was a 1-yard run by Chris Phillips and the other was a 60-yard hitch-and-go pass from Taffrey Peterman to Deven Foster. But Clearwater chipped away in the fourth quarter.
Keedrik Murray threw a halfback pass to a wide open Marquvion Jeter for a 70-yard touchdown. Then Rent Montie connected with Murray on an 8-yard TD pass to make it 27-26. The two-point try failed.
After consuming much of the fourth quarter on an 11-play drive, Clearwater was forced to punt with 2:11 left. Boca Ciega had no timeouts and had to go 75 yards. Peterman hit some big passes, especially one to Phillips with 23 seconds left that put the ball on the 4.
The Pirates tried to run on the next play but were stopped at the 3. They spiked the ball with three seconds left. Peterman then tried a quarterback draw but was stuffed to end the game.
"This was make-or-break for us," Montie said. "It’s like a playoff game. If we don’t win this then we had to get lucky. But we took care of business. Now we have to take care of business next week."
The first half started sloppily and didn’t get much better. Clearwater’s opening drive ended after 11 plays when it was stopped on downs. Boca Ciega fumbled on its first play. Not to be outdone, the Tornadoes fumbled it right back three plays later.
Clearwater threw an interception on its next possession, but made an even bigger mistake after another defensive stand. On fourth and 6 from their own 24 early in the second quarter, the Tornadoes punted. The punt was blocked, and Evan Graham returned it 10 yards to make it 6-0. The kick failed.
It stayed that way until 2:48 left in the half when Rent Montie threw a 65-yard touchdown pass to Murray to make it 7-6. That lead lasted about two minutes after Alfonso Franklin returned the kickoff 80 yards to make it 12-7. The two-point try failed.
Overall, there were six turnovers, 15 penalties and the blocked punt in the half.
The Tornadoes threw for 283 yards. Montie had 213 of those. Franklin rushed for 148 yards to lead Boca Ciega.