Clearwater Central Catholic returns to the state final four once again this year, having blanked North Palm Beach-Benjamin 7-0 in the Class 2A, Section III boys soccer championship Friday. The Marauders (26-1-3), state champions in 1981, '83, '86, and '89, are after a state record fifth state title. Miami Killian, a Class 4A semifinalist this year, is also playing for its fifth state title.
The road to the tournament hasn't been long and winding for CCC. In post-season play, CCC has yet to concede a goal in racking up more than 30 of its own.
Boys soccer in class 2A may not be as strong as in the larger schools, but coach Jim Harte's Marauders have proven that his team can play with _ and even beat _ just about anybody.
Already this year, CCC has defeated Killian; Miami Sunset, the defending state Class 4A champion; and Gaither (twice), last year's state runner-up to Sunset.
Against 3A schools, Tarpon Springs, holders of six Pinellas County Conference titles in the '80s, always has a tough side for CCC to play. Jesuit, ousted by state tournament bound St. Petersburg in regionals, is one of the top teams across the bay. The Marauders defeated both Tarpon Springs and Jesuit twice this season.
Goal keeping has been a key to CCC's success. The Marauders are fortunate to have the services of two. Kevin Focke and Shawn Kelly share duties for CCC, alternating matches. Friday in North Palm Beach, Kelly was not forced to make a save, but broke up several Benjamin opportunities en route to his ninth shutout. Twice the junior came off his line to stuff an oncoming striker, preventing a shot.
Look for Kelly to stand guard in the state semifinals versus Florida Air Academy. Harte said if all goes well, Focke (a senior) will start in the state championship match.