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Clearwater Central Catholic falls in Class 1M state final

And Pinellas County goes another year without winning it all in football.
Clearwater Central Catholic freshman lineman DJ Pouncy, left, and senior lineman Ceddrick Cann offer comfort after a tough 48-14 loss to Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in the Class 1M (Metro) state final Thursday night.
Clearwater Central Catholic freshman lineman DJ Pouncy, left, and senior lineman Ceddrick Cann offer comfort after a tough 48-14 loss to Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in the Class 1M (Metro) state final Thursday night. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 9, 2022|Updated Dec. 9, 2022

TALLAHASSEE — The hope of finally ending Pinellas County’s 60-year drought without a state football title fell flat Thursday night when Clearwater Central Catholic ran into a juggernaut.

Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna more than lived up to its No. 5 national ranking by MaxPreps and was simply too much for the Marauders, who ultimately fell 48-14 in the Class 1M (Metro) state championship game.

Too big. Too fast. Too strong.

Particularly on offense.

The trouble for CCC (12-2) started on the opening drive, in which Chaminade (13-0) drove 79 yards in one minute, four seconds, finishing with a 4-yard touchdown pass from 6-foot-6 quarterback Cedrick Bailey to fellow junior Joshisa Trader.

The next three Lions touchdown drives in the first half went as follows: 91 yards in 1:45, 79 yards in 1:52 and 97 yards in 1:50 — the latter being the ultimate dagger.

Just before the 97-yarder, CCC’s Nate Johnson III had blocked a field goal and fellow senior Luis Sanchez returned it 60 yards to the Lions’ 11-yard line with 5:59 left in the second quarter.

Four plays later, CCC stalled on downs and the Lions took over at their own 3-yard line.

By halftime, Chaminade had racked up 376 yards, and Bailey had completed 16 of 24 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns.

More importantly, the Lions led 28-0.

“I will take my team every time over anybody else’s team because I love them, but I have to say that (Chaminade-Madonna) team is the most skilled team I’ve ever coached against,” said coach Chris Harvey, in his seventh season with the Marauders. “They are very well-coached. They execute and they know what they’re doing in every aspect.

“They had no weakness.”

CCC did fight back in the second half, scoring a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter. But the problems continued when the Marauders had to defend against the Lions’ offense, which never really slowed down before finishing with 598 total yards.

Clearwater Central Catholic’s sophomore quarterback, Jershaun Newton, fights hard for every yard.
Clearwater Central Catholic’s sophomore quarterback, Jershaun Newton, fights hard for every yard. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

One of the brightest spots for the Marauders again involved their sensational sophomore quarterback, Jershaun Newton, who finished with 22 carries for 127 yards while completing 5 of 10 passes for 85 yards. Newton also played many downs at defensive end, trying to get pressure on Bailey, who proved elusive.

CCC senior running back Lenwood Sapp, who finished his final two seasons with nearly 3,000 total rushing yards, also was stout, rushing 24 times for 94 yards; and, like Newton, Sapp played several downs on defense.

“Ultimately, the most important thing I took out of all this is that we had 13 seniors who fought through all the difficulties with COVID and stayed with us and worked their tails off to get to this point,” Harvey said. “And then even in a championship game where things didn’t go as well as they wanted them to, they kept fighting right to the end. They never ever stopped giving it everything they had.”

Before the CCC loss Thursday night, the county had appeared 10 times in 11-man state title games, a championship series the Florida High School Athletic Association started in 1963.

The last Pinellas County appearance in a state final came in 2014 when Indian Rocks Christian lost 54-16 to Lakeland Victory Christian. CCC also made it to the final in 2013, losing 34-7 to Jacksonville Trinity Christian.

The other Pinellas County teams to come up short in a state title game were Shorecrest (1975, 1976), St. Petersburg (1984), Dunedin and Tarpon Springs (1986), Dunedin (1987), Dixie Hollins (1995) and Admiral Farragut (2011).