CLEARWATER — The stage was set Friday for a huge upset.
With a berth in the Class 3A state semifinals at stake, athletic Berkeley Prep quarterback Joshua Youngblood was doing his best disappearing act in front of the Clearwater Central Catholic defense, darting and dashing for 133 first-half yards. Jakob Hines was grinding out yardage, scoring a touchdown to give the visiting Bucs a first-quarter lead. And the Berkeley defense, led by aggressive linebackers Manoli Houvardas and Jaylen Harrell, were confusing Marauder signal caller Rory Hicks, creating an interception in the process while forcing the hosts to drive 93 yards just to tie the score.
Then, step by frustrating step, it all disappeared.
Hines suffered a hip injury late in the first half and didn't return. CCC, behind game-changing plays from Jerjuan and Johnny Newton, among others, found its footing. And Youngblood found himself retreating in the face of a revived Marauder defense before being felled by a left calf injury in the fourth quarter.
Stripping away the Bucs' weapons while empowering its own, CCC ripped off the final 35 points to power past Berkeley Prep 35-7 and earn a home date against Chaminade-Madonna next Friday.
"These two kids … the whole family … we've won a lot of games riding their backs," Marauders coach Chris Harvey said of the positive impact the Newton family has had on the program. "Now we've got enough players around them so the sky's the limit."
After Jerjuan threw the final block to spring Casey Levy (132 rushing yards) for his first of two touchdowns to open the second half, Johnny saw his opportunity to change the course of the game.
Following sophomore Makkah Jordan in pursuit of Berkeley's kick returner, the junior saw Jordan punch the ball free and pounced on it at the Bucs 41. Three plays later, Jerjuan turned a Hicks pass into a 41-yard touchdown completion and the game changed.
"We had to pick up the tempo to get their defense off track so we could do our thing," said Johnny Newton, who scored CCC's first TD on an 8-yard run. "The offensive line picked it up, Rory was throwing the ball good, and everything was working well."
"Usually when times are rough, I'm always there for my teammates," said Jerjuan, who finished with five catches for 92 yards. "My team can always count on me to make those plays."
On defense, Johnny was moved further to the outside to cut down Youngblood's running lanes and the adjustment worked to a T. In his second game back from injury, he sacked the speedster three times and , along with Harrison Thomas (sack, tackle for loss) and Kennedy Roberts, held Berkeley to only nine yards in the final 24 minutes.
"In the last game (against Tampa Catholic), I kind of trusted my speed, but in this game, I really got used to it," Johnny Newton said. "I didn't think I was going to catch (Youngblood), to be honest with you, but I got him and I was happy."
And with Hicks (12 of 21, 198 yards and another TD to Brett Seither, who contributed 91 of the QB's yards) playing more Hicks-like ball, the Marauders wouldn't be stopped.
"We're a better team than we were a year ago," said Harvey about next week's daunting task. "There are players in spots that we depend on to make plays that are a year more matured and better. I'll take my team, we'll put it out there and see what happens. We've just got to do that we've got to do."