CLEARWATER — It sounds a little bit like a cheesy Disney movie, but this really happened in Friday night’s Class 3A region semifinal between Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Catholic. The Marauders trailed by four points with two seconds left and the ball on TC’s 29-yard-line. CCC had been struggling for most of the fourth quarter, but there was one last chance.
Quarterback Rory Hicks was told to look for a receiver in the end zone and heave it to him. That receiver was Brett Seither, who out-jumped two defenders to snag the ball in the left corner of the end zone. Touchdown. Horn sounds. Game over.
CCC 37, Tampa Catholic 35.
"We’ve worked on that a lot in practice," Seither said. "I was just able to make the play when it was there. It’s indescribable. It wasn’t looking to good there in the end but we were able to come together and rally and finish it off."
CCC (10-0), a No. 1 seed in the region, will host Calvary Christian in the region final.
The winning catch was only Seither’s second of the game. He caught Hicks’ first pass of the night. Hicks, who completed 15 of 26 passes and also threw an interception that led to a first-half touchdown, said he had a feeling once the ball left his hand.
"It’s just trust," said Hicks, who threw two incomplete passes before the winner. "Find your best matchup and trust that your guy will come down with it. Once he caught it, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to run to, who to celebrate with."
That CCC celebrated at all looked improbable.
Neither team made many defensive stops in the first half. The Crusaders ended their first drive with a missed 22-yard field goal. CCC then rolled downfield and ended an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a 5-yard run by Johnny Newton to make it 7-0. Tampa Catholic responded with a seven-play drive capped by an 11-yard run by quarterback Charlie Dean.
The Marauders answered with a 27-yard TD pass from Hicks to C.J. Catia on the second play of the second quarter for a 14-7 lead. TC came right back with a 10-play, 56-yard drive that ended on a 5-yard run by Caleb Tate.
CCC looked to be moving again late in the half, but Hicks was intercepted by Aamani Felix, who returned it for a 51-yard touchdown. The half ended on a Preston McDonald 33-yard field goal that made the score 21-17.
In the second half, Tampa Catholic (7-4) scored twice . And with 2:04 left, CCC fumbled on the Crusaders’ 18. CCC used all three timeouts to force a Tampa Catholic punt with 1:31 to go.
The Marauders got the ball down to the 29 on nine plays before hitting the winner.
"It was a fun game until the end," TC coach Mike Gregory said. "We made some mistakes and in games like these it gets magnified a bit. If we convert on third down late, then they don’t have any timeouts. But those things happen. Their kid made a great throw and No. 18 made a great catch."