TAMPA — The Class 3A region semifinal between Clearwater Central Catholic and Berkeley Prep was a defensive battle throughout regulation Friday night. But when overtime began, the teams tied at 14, the Bucs’ and Marauders’ offenses immediately made up for lost time.
Both CCC and Berkeley Prep scored on their very first possessions in overtime, so the game kept going. The third time around, CCC made a stop. All the Marauders had to do then was score on their third overtime possession to win.
CCC coach Chris Harvey knew exactly whose hands he needed to put the ball into, even if it was a little predictable.
So on second and 5 from the 5-yard line, Johnny Newton took the snap, scoring his third overtime touchdown to deliver a 34-28 three-overtime victory. The Marauders will advance to next week’s region final a Fort Myers Bishop Verot.
"He's a senior. He's been here for four years. We've been riding his back for four years," Harvey said about Newton. "Why would tonight be any different?"
In the first half, Newton didn't make much noise, nor did any other Marauder on offense.
Berkeley Prep took an early lead when Gavin Rupp hit RJ Garcia on an 11-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, and the Bucs blanked CCC (9-3) in the first half.
Both teams went into the locker room at halftime with fewer than 100 yards of offense. But after the break, senior running back Jordan Niles knew it was do-or-die.
"It was definitely frustrating in the first half, but once we got out of that locker room, we knew we had to step it up," Niles said. "It was our season. Our season was on the line."
And on CCC's first drive of the third quarter, Niles took that sentiment to heart, finding a hole and breaking away for a 60-yard touchdown run, doubling his team's offensive production with just one play.
Berkeley Prep (8-2) took the lead right back early in the fourth with a 21-yard touchdown run from Travis Bates. The Bucs recovered an onside kick immediately following Bates' score and tried to extend its lead with a field goal, but the kick came up short.
After Niles tied the score again with a 38-yard touchdown run later in the fourth quarter, Berkeley Prep lined up for another big kick with 2.7 seconds left, this time to win the game. It, too, came up short, sending the teams to overtime.
And in the extra minutes, it was all about Newton.
The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Maryland commit scored first on a 10-yard touchdown run. He'd get the ball twice in double overtime, eventually cashing in on a 2-yard touchdown run.
So when CCC got the ball back in third overtime with a chance to win the game, Newton didn't mind asking for a chance to finish what he started.
“Right when we stopped them, I told coach, ‘just give me the ball.’ Whatever helps my team win the game, I’m down for it,” Newton said. “I just wanted it real bad, and I scored.”
All games 7:30 p.m. next Friday.
Class 2A, Region 3
• No. 4 Admiral Farragut at No. 3 Seffner Christian
Class 3A, Region 3
• No. 5 Clearwater Central Catholic at No. 2 Fort Myers Bishop Verot
Class 4A, Region 3
• No. 3 Tampa Catholic at No. 1 Lakewood
Class 5A, Region 3
• No. 4 Jesuit at No. 2 Lake Wales
Class 6A, Region 2
• No. 3 Lake Minneola at No. 1 Gaither
Class 7A, Region 2
• No. 2 Lakeland at No. 1 Armwood
Class 8A, Region 2
• No. 4 Steinbrenner at No. 3 Kissimmee Osceola