Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. HomeTeam

Weather delay is actually good timing for Clearwater Central Catholic

After Fort Lauderdale University closes in on the Marauders, the home team comes out of the break on fire.
Football teams around Tampa Bay are in action for Week 9 of the regular season. [SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times]
Published Oct. 19

CLEARWATER — Nothing like blinding rain and a tornado warning to turn a team’s fortunes around.

When the tropical storm bearing down on the Panhandle brought its damage to Clearwater on Friday night, Clearwater Central Catholic was struggling, seeing a 14-point lead slowly disappear to Class 4A power Fort Lauderdale University School as the third quarter ended.

But after the hour-long break, the Class 3A Marauders were a changed team. A running game that was stifled was striking for big yardage. A defense that yielded big plays early not only shut down standout quarterback Nick Vattiato but forced key turnovers. The result was a runaway 36-15 victory that strengthens CCC's pursuit for a postseason berth.

“I told the guys that the whole purpose of us building this schedule was to get to this opportunity right now,” Marauders coach Chris Harvey explained of a slate featuring six teams currently in the playoff picture, including the visiting Sharks, who were top-ranked in the state in 4A. “A lot of people didn’t understand why I’d go this extreme, but it showed (Friday).”

CCC (6-3) came out on fire, halting a promising U-School opening drive on a Tyler Barnett sack, then leaning on senior Jordan Niles (160 rushing yards but only 72 through three quarters) to drive 53 yards to the opening score on a 3-yard run.

Three plays later, senior Johnny Newton came in clean on Vattiato for a strip sack that classmate Harrison Thomas collected at the Shark 7-yard-line. Niles took the handoff on the next snap and, with the help of many of his friends, ground out the distance to the end zone.

But as the rain intensified and lightning flashed over the Gulf, the Marauder offense started to struggle (five straight punts and a lost fumble) while University (6-2) found itself, ironically, by throwing through the saturated air.

The Sharks' passing game flourished in a big way after punter Brandon Inniss juggled a snap, saw CCC retreating to block and surprised the hosts with a 14-yard first-down romp. Vattiato (11 of 18 for 170 yards in the first half) then hit Inniss on a quick slant that turned into a 59-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

And on the first play of its next possession, Vattiato lofted a pass to the deep right flat. Junior C.J. Cage, who received a huge block from freshman Vinny Pagano on the last CCC defender, turned the pitch-and-catch into a 68-yard scramble to paydirt.

The only thing keeping U-School from drawing even were extra points (Sebastian Przytula converted two PAT kicks, the Sharks had a kick blocked by Brad Seale and a two-point try stuffed on Giancarlo Margarejo’s sack). That changed when U-School turned CCC’s turnover into a 32-yard John Cannon field goal just over three minutes into second-half action.

But the game changed in the fourth quarter, after the Sharks missed a lead-padding 32-yard field-goal try.

Niles busted off runs of 51 and 31 yards while Newton turned into a closer with a 1-yard TD to give CCC an advantage it would not lose.

“Our offensive line got together and was able to figure out what was going wrong,” Niles said. “They made adjustments and kicked it in.”

“I felt my team really needed me, telling me we needed a sack, telling me I needed to lead the team,” Newton said post-game with tongue slightly in cheek. “I had to turn into beast mode and take over.”

Newton did as his second sack set up a clutch interception from junior Jarquez Green, which Newton cashed in with a 2-yard scoring run.

Then Niles picked off Vattiato (1 for 6, 6 yards in the second half), and three plays later, Newton busted off right tackle for a 49-yard romp to the house with 1:29 left in the game.

“I don’t know if we took our foot off the gas, but we took that punch, got through that break, and the way we finished was amazing,” Harvey concluded. “We wanted to be that team that flipped the switch and finished the game the way we needed to.”

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. There's no doubt Kobe Knox and Tampa Catholic have one of the toughest boys basketball schedules in the state ... possibly the nation. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The contenders, like the Tampa Catholic boys and defending state champ Tampa Bay Tech girls, aren’t leaving their fates to just district matchups.
  2. Northside Christian did not have an answer for Seffner Christian receiver Michael Trigg, who burned the Mustangs for five touchdowns in the teams’ Class 2A, Region 3 semifinal. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    Sunday Morning Quarterback: Rematch revenge, prolific offensive outings, road warriors and more from the region semifinals.
  3. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    The Warriors take the lead for good with less than four minutes to play in knocking off top-seeded Sarasota Riverview.
  4. Northside Christian did not have an answer for Seffner Christian receiver Michael Trigg, right, during Friday's Class 2A region semifinal. SCOTT PURKS  |  Special to the Times
    The duo accounts for five touchdowns as the Crusaders roll past Northside Christian.
  5. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    The Blue Jackets also get revenge for a regular-season loss to the Lancers.
  6. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    The Hawks and Bloomingdale both have trouble holding on to the ball, but defense again is key for Armwood.
  7. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    Everything clicks per usual for the unbeaten Spartans, who were coming off a bye week and will face Tampa Catholic next.
  8. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    Johnny Newton scores all three Marauders’ touchdowns in extra time as CCC dispatches Berkeley Prep.
  9. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    The Packers do a good job of containing Kyeandre Magloire, but the same can’t be said of Lake Minneola’s quarterback.
  10. High school football teams around Tampa Bay competed in the second round of the playoffs Friday night. Times
    The Titans aren’t intimidated by powerhouse Lakeland, always within striking distance (if not in the lead) before falling by a touchdown.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement