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Clearwater Central Catholic heading back to state final

The Marauders get a rematch with defending champion Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna.
 
Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton rips off a late, dodging, sprinting, spinning 45-yard run during Marauders' 39-32 victory over Jacksonville Trinity Christian on Friday night.
Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton rips off a late, dodging, sprinting, spinning 45-yard run during Marauders' 39-32 victory over Jacksonville Trinity Christian on Friday night. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 2, 2023|Updated Dec. 2, 2023

CLEARWATER — Tired and tested, Clearwater Central Catholic took the field Friday night and battled to another fantastic finish in the biggest game so far in 2023: a Class 1M state semifinal against former nine-time state champ Jacksonville Trinity Christian.

As the Marauders have done four other times this fall, they fell behind by two touchdowns, only to steadily claw back, taking the lead in the second half, this time pulling out a 39-32 victory.

Now the undefeated Marauders (13-0) return for a state final rematch on Thursday at 10 a.m in Tallahassee against Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, the team that defeated them 48-14 in the same round last December.

“I hope (Chaminade-Madonna) knows we’re a different team than we were last year,” CCC coach Chris Harvey said. “We have that experience now and I think we have shown how tough we are this year. We showed it again tonight.”

Did they ever.

Trailing 14-0 with less than 6 minutes remaining in the second quarter, CCC quarterback Jershaun Newton led yet another charge, finishing a 62-yard drive with a 28-yard pass over defenders to a leaping Shamar Rigby in the corner of the end zone.

Trinity Christian (9-4) took over with less than 2 minutes on the clock and scored a touchdown as time expired in the first half to make it 20-7.

Clearwater Central Catholic receiver Shamar Rigby makes a spectacular 28-yard touchdown reception.
Clearwater Central Catholic receiver Shamar Rigby makes a spectacular 28-yard touchdown reception. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

CCC didn’t blink.

Through the second half Newton continued making plays on the ground and via the air, connecting with Justin Stephens, Artrevian McClellan, Caleb Goodloe, Andy Jaffe and others — many on third down and a couple on fourth down.

CCC took the opening drive of the second half and marched 64 yards in 10 plays, the last a 1-yard dive by Newton for a touchdown.

A few minutes later, the Marauders took their first lead on a 21-yard pass to Goodloe, making it 21-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

The most dramatic plays in the final 12 minutes? There were many.

There was a 36-yard touchdown run by Stephens and another 40-yard touchdown scamper by McClellan, who, by the way, plays 90% of the Marauders’ plays, splitting time between receiver, running back and defensive back.

“Tired?” McClellan said. “No. We’re all prepared for this. We all feel good.”

Newton — who ripped off a dramatic 45-yard run in the waning minutes, and who also played plenty at defensive end — looked a bit questionable at the end with a strained ankle.

The injury will be evaluated Saturday, but he was walking, albeit gingerly after the game Friday night.

“We’ll all be ready,” McClellan said. “I know we will. That’s how we play. That’s what we do.”