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Clearwater Central Catholic gets another shot at knocking off a powerhouse

The Marauders, who hope to become Pinellas County’s first state football champ, have another meeting with Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna.
 
Clearwater Central Catholic has gone to great lengths to stay extra fit in preparation for a long playoff run. The effort appears to have paid off as the Marauders head into the Class 1M state final on Thursday without any starters sidelined with injury.
Clearwater Central Catholic has gone to great lengths to stay extra fit in preparation for a long playoff run. The effort appears to have paid off as the Marauders head into the Class 1M state final on Thursday without any starters sidelined with injury. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]
Published Dec. 6, 2023

CLEARWATER — There is no mystery to any of this any longer.

Clearwater Central Catholic knows exactly what it needs to do to have a chance against Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna in Thursday’s Class 1M state final in Tallahassee.

CCC went there, and did that, last year.

The Marauders witnessed all the Chaminade speed, strength and depth and appeared rather stunned after a 48-14 loss.

“I would say we were a little intimidated last year,” said CCC senior defensive back Artrevian McClellan, who spent much of his 2022 championship night chasing the Lions on long touchdown runs. “But not this time. This time we know exactly what’s up. We know exactly what time it is.”

CCC defensive back Andy Jaffe added that the Marauders have no illusions regarding Chaminade-Madonna, 13-0 and ranked No. 2 in the country by MaxPreps after outscoring opponents 631-137, including 345-7 in its last six games.

CLEARWATER - Clearwater Central Catholic receiver, kick returner and defensive back Artrevian McClellan signals first down after a long kickoff return during a 39-32 victory over Jacksonville Trinity Christian Friday night in a Class 1M state semifinal. Scott Purks, Special to the Times, December 1, 2023
CLEARWATER - Clearwater Central Catholic receiver, kick returner and defensive back Artrevian McClellan signals first down after a long kickoff return during a 39-32 victory over Jacksonville Trinity Christian Friday night in a Class 1M state semifinal. Scott Purks, Special to the Times, December 1, 2023 [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

“But we are not intimidated,” Jaffe said.

Part of the hope stems from the fact that every CCC starter is ready to play, unlike last year when a top receiver and three starting linebackers — Ryan Gross, Drake Witt and Jackson Hollis — missed the final with injuries.

Gross, Witt and Hollis appear close to 100% this week.

There was a question regarding the right ankle of CCC quarterback Jershaun Newton after Friday night’s 39-32 state semifinal victory over Jacksonville Trinity Christian. Newton twisted the ankle on the last offensive play and though he was walking afterward, it was gingerly.

CCC coach Chris Harvey assured on Monday that “Jershaun is ready to go.”

CLEARWATER - Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton, who this season has passed for 1,926 yards and rushed for 1,020, twisted his ankle at the end of the Class 1M state semifinal Friday night. Newton is rehabbing the ankle this week and is expected to be fully ready to play Thursday in the state final in Tallahassee. Scott Purks, Special to the Times, December 5, 2023
CLEARWATER - Clearwater Central Catholic quarterback Jershaun Newton, who this season has passed for 1,926 yards and rushed for 1,020, twisted his ankle at the end of the Class 1M state semifinal Friday night. Newton is rehabbing the ankle this week and is expected to be fully ready to play Thursday in the state final in Tallahassee. Scott Purks, Special to the Times, December 5, 2023 [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

That’s good news for Marauder fans because without Newton — who this year has thrown for 1,926 yards and 14 touchdowns and rushed for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns — chances dwindle.

Is CCC battle tested? No doubt about it. The Marauders have played an extremely challenging schedule and consistently rose to the challenge, finishing 13-0 while coming back four times after trailing by two touchdowns.

“We never worry,” Jaffe said. “We believe in ourselves. We believe it this week. We’re ready to shock the world.”

Historically, a victory would be huge for Pinellas County, which has never won a state football title since the Florida High School Athletic Association playoffs began in 1963.

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CCC is the 10th team from Pinellas County to reach a state final and the second to reach in back-to-back years. CCC lost its first state championship game 34-7 to Jacksonville Trinity Christian in 2013.

Head coach Chris Harvey is no stranger to Clearwater Central Catholic's championship opponent.
Head coach Chris Harvey is no stranger to Clearwater Central Catholic's championship opponent. [ SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times ]

Adding more perspective to the situation is the fact that this will be the fifth time Harvey has coached CCC against Chaminade, which is not only the two-time defending state champ, but has won five titles over the last six seasons, finishing as the runnerup in the other.

“(Chaminade) looks the same as they always have,” said Harvey, who also coached against the Lions in three state semifinal losses beginning in 2017. “We know what we have to do. We have to run the football. We have to be balanced and throw the ball some. Defensively we have to get to the quarterback. I know those things sound generic, but everything I’m saying are things we expect to be able to do.”

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).

State finals

At Bragg Memorial Stadium, Tallahassee

Class 2M: No. 3 Berkeley Prep vs. No. 1 Miami Norland, 10 a.m. Saturday

Class 1M: No. 2 Clearwater Central Catholic vs. No. 1 Hollywood Chaminade-Madonna, 10 a.m. Thursday