(ran CTI LTCTNT)
Last year, Clearwater Central Catholic coach John Davis came in intending to change things. It bothered him that despite its more than two-dozen state championships in other sports, CCC rarely won more than three or four football games a season.
It took six games for Davis to see progress, but he thinks he finally has something. This year a run-and-shoot offense, propelled by a talented quarterback, a sturdy offensive line and a bunch of enthusiastic kids, just may bring the Marauders their first winning season in nine years.
On paper, CCC's 2-8 record last season is unimpressive. But the Marauders switched from an option offense to the run-and-shoot midway through.
The new offense started to click in the eighth game, which CCC lost when Lecanto kicked a field goal with 4 seconds left. But the Marauders won their last two, including a 20-13 victory over Fort Myers Lehigh Acres in which Chris Defant threw for more than 300 yards.
This season CCC drops from 4A to 3A but won't have an easy time in District 5. Davis is dreaming of a district title, but knows Wildwood and Tampa Catholic are standing in the way.
"We're going to be much better than we've been here in a long, long time," Davis said. "We have a little more speed than in the past, a lot more experience than what we've had. Things are looking up."
On the ground: Any one of four runners could show up in the Marauders' one- or two-back sets. Sophomore Brian Riley, a returning starter, probably will carry the group, but senior Billy Meyers and junior Mike Detler will factor in, as will P. J. Lavenia at fullback.
The offensive line, led by senior Jim Pietrzak, is CCC's real strength with all its starters returning. Pietrzak (6 feet 5, 230 pounds) is being recruited by several Division I schools and has the grades and the test scores. Rounding out the group are Chad Lennon, Dennis Cook, Jeff Nail and Jason Proefke.
Through the air: This is where the real action will be. Defant, a senior, threw for 1,515 yards and five touchdowns last year. Most of his 13 interceptions came early in the season.
He won't have Jim Monaco (50 catches last year) to throw to, but he'll keep busy with receivers Pat Greenish, Steve Simmons, Shane Wood and Jamie Fowler. With the run-and-shoot, expect to see as many as four wideouts lined up at a time.
Defense, defense: Again, the Marauders are strong up front, but need linebackers and defensive backs to step up. Tackle Mike Merkle anchors the line, and Lavenia is the most experienced linebacker. David Lewandowski returns at cornerback, but the Marauders will need help in the secondary from running backs Riley and Meyers.
Just for kicks: Last year's kicker, Ryan Proly, is out until mid-September with a back injury. Until then, Riley will take on punting and kicking duties.
AT A GLANCE
Coach: John Davis, second year (2-8).
Assistants: Ron Ragland, Greg Handsel, Greg Ferguson, Todd Pierce, Mark Darner, Bob Merson.
Stadium: Marauder Stadium.
District: Class 3A, District 5.
1994 record: 2-8. Wins: Berkeley Prep 14-6, Fort Meyers Lehigh Acres 20-13. Losses: Sarasota Cardinal Mooney 21-10, Osceola 42-7, Tampa Catholic 28-0, Gulf 21-0, Lakewood 27-14, St. Petersburg Catholic 18-10, River Ridge 37-3, Lecanto 15-13.
1976: Lost to Ft. Meade 17-0
1978: Lost to Clermont 16-0